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Family Matters - Forgotten Realms Waterdeep Campaign

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 16 - Garden's Side of the Story

Garden, you were walking back through the Blade when darkness suddenly descended upon you. In the utter gloom, you barely had time to hear the faint sound of feet before the sharp pain of a blade sliced across your side. You did have enough time to recognize the effects of drow sleep poison before you went under.

You awake sometime later (not too long, or so you think), gagged and trussed up like a pig for a roast, being hauled along by many hands through darkness. A few experimental squirms makes you realize you’ve been relieved of your possessions. You are hustled down one stone corridor after another, and through one snug one (even for you). You smell mostly wet stone, mold, and a faint bitter scent that seemed to come from your captors. Eventually you are set down and chained to what seems to be a wall by the feel of it. This final room is much larger, and smells of mildew and dust, along with more of the bitter odor. What few sounds you hear, scufflings and whatnot, echo as if it were a stone room.

Those who’ve taken you move away, and you can hear them whispering in a language you don’t understand. Then one voice, louder than the others, issues something that sounds like a command from the tone. There’s a beat of silence before another says, in Common, “Use the trade tongue; it doesn’t understand ours, fool.”

“Beer for everyone, and be quick about it,” the first voice snaps. An odd metallic clicking sound begins to trot to and fro in the room. It sounds like a metal chicken. Granted, you’ve never seen one, but if you had it would sound like that. There’s the sound of a keg being tapped in the corner, liquid pouring into mugs, and something being drunk by many people. Occasionally you hear a funny little voice say, “Five cop, five cop for mug house special, five cop.”

“Shut it, you aren’t getting paid,” one of your captors snaps.

The metallic clicking comes closer, and you smell good beer from a flagon being thrust under your nose. “Dwarven drinking ale. Pop-u-lar. Two sil.” You know that voice! By Tymora, it’s one of those homacals from the Bronze Gear tavern! Something tugs at your gag as the beer mug lifts to your mouth, but something comes flying by your head with a clang, presumably striking the homacal in front of you, as it pauses.

“None for him,” someone growls.

“Sor-ree,” it says, and scuttles off again. “Sticks is sor-ree.”

For long minutes you’re left alone, so naturally you test your bonds to see if you could wriggle free. Someone laughs nastily close by. “We can see you, little thief. Stop squirming.”

A barked command in that unfamiliar tongue by an unfamiliar voice causes silence to fall. In the quiet, the same voice speaks again, now sounding very confident and arrogant. One of the others near you ventures what sounds like a protest. Something rustles above your head, sounding like a leather tent, and the protestor goes quiet.

Suddenly someone strikes a twilight rod to life (they’re like the brighter sunrods, except twilight rods give off a faint blue glow and are more useful to those who can see in low light conditions). Now you can see, and the situation is not good. You’re in a cavern that’s been augmented in the past with worked stone, now crumbling. Low shelves like catacombs line the walls, and tucked away in each one are the familiar rags of a dark creeper. A round dozen creepers are at their leisure, drinking beer, counting loot from what looks like belt pouches and traveler’s packs, or preparing their weapons. Crates, boxes, and sacks litter the room. As you watch, two creepers depart, climbing up the wall to an aperture above, and two different ones return. Scouts, perhaps?

But what really catches your attention is the slab-sided stone “throne” against one wall. A tall, slender figure lounges there, twice as tall as the dark creepers, his “rags” far more elegant. His glittering dark eyes are cold, and he toys with a long, slender blade you know as an “assassin’s needle” – a very thin adamantine knife good for administering poison.

Above him, clinging to the ceiling, are what appear to be two dark leather tents, folded up. Except they each have several sets of dark eyes. And they’re breathing.

The man on the throne speaks to you in the Common tongue, and his is clearly the authoritative voice. “Do not bother to boast to me of your clan’s inevitable revenge, thief, for I doubt they will ever find your body down here in the dark. Though we shall be certain to save a piece so they know not to go where they are not wanted. You dare to think you can come barging into the Underdark with all the subtlety of a cave-in? Fool, you shall learn differently, and so shall your meddling friends.”

At that moment you hear a loud sound echo in the distance – Charissa’s gun! Far away, but that was definitely her gun! The leader suddenly douses the light, and hisses unknown commands as you all wait in the tense darkness. You hear daggers being drawn, low chanting from near the throne, and above you, the faint slithering of whatever monstrous pets are lurking in wait to kill your kith and kin…
 

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Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 17

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they were trudging through the corridors beyond the portal in the Blade, armed with a mental map as to where the dark creepers, and their dread leader the dark stalker, had taken Garden. Pressing forward, the passage, according to the directions, was about to end in a large cavern that had in it an old, old fortress. It was partially natural, partially worked stone, atop a small plateau. There was only the faintest of natural light, from phosphorescent fungus, and the group was a little hesitant to show their own sources of light, but what else could they do if they went around stumbling through the gloom? With silence, if not stealth, they crept closer.

Inside the hideout, Garden had been left alone as the dark creepers readied themselves. He tried to wriggle enough to reach the concealed bone knives in the sides of his boots. He was sure he would have been able to get them eventually, but as he shifted the homacle, Sticks, arrived near him with its usual metallic clicking.

“Tableside assistance?” it asked. Figuring what did he have to lose, Garden said yes. “U-ten-sil?” Yes again, and Sticks took the knife near Garden’s fingers and began to cut him loose.

Out in the chamber, the rest of the party (plus Brother Darvin from the Temple of Lathander, and the octopus wizard Rich and his water familiar) had realized it was far too quiet in there, and set out to get Garden out before anything else could happen!

Several members of the party tried to ascent the short but steep slope up to an opening into the old fortress, with Evelyn and Steven and Charissa making it (Evelyn can climb in heels, oh yes she can), and William unfortunately doing a face-plant into the gravel. The noise apparently alerted some of the scouts, and knives began to rain down on the party from above.

Inside, Garden asked Sticks if there was any alcohol about, any flammable spirits.

“Fire-water,” Sticks affirmed, and pressed a glass flask into his hand. Popping the cork to check the contents, Garden nearly became drunk on the fumes alone. Yes, this would do the trick nicely. And did Sticks happen to have a firestarter?

“Twisted firestarter,” Sticks said, and put the twist-and-strike contraption in Garden’s other hand. Garden improvised a wick from a torn scrap of his hem, lit the thing and tossed it where he last remembered seeing the dark stalking sitting!

Outside, Steven fired an arrow up at one of the dark creeper snipers, catching him in the hand and making him tumble to the floor, to die in a burst of light. With the fortress now lit up from the inside, and the group backlit outside, more knives began to be thrown from the dark creepers who’d concealed themselves behind crates and barrels and sacks.

Rich summoned an earth elemental, and Darvin summoned one of air to go inside the fortress – elementals could see even in the dark, and if the dark creepers put out the lights again, at least they could try to rescue him or hamper the creepers.

Right then, the lights outside the fortress did go out, as the two darkmantles who had spent the last few moments working their way along the ceiling dropped on Shandri and Darvin. What followed was a both dangerous and comedic episode where both clerics struggled to free themselves from what were essentially attack umbrellas with tentacles, occasionally getting free just long enough to utter a cry of triumph, before the darkmantles wrapped them up again.

Meanwhile, the dark stalker had not been sitting in this throne so much as perching just above it. He leapt at Garden, stabbing him with his dagger, while Charissa shot at him from the doorway. Garden returned the favor, striking deep as the battle raged on. Steven was not having much luck in trying to beat the darkmantles off the clerics, and William took several wounds from daggers. He did ask Shandri for help, but as she was rather wrapped up at the time, she uttered several muffled words that probably didn’t bear repeating. (Though she did heal him once the darkmantle had finally be wrested off and dashed upon the ground to be stomped on. But she was grumpy about it.)

With several dark creepers dying, many more fled into the dim cavern, and even the dark stalker quit the field. Garden tried to put a dagger in his back but missed. Once the party was reunited with much back-slapping and sarcasm, they realized there were many exits from this place, and the creepers had taken most of them.

However, in their haste, they had only taken the smallest and most portable of their ill-gotten gains. Lighting more torches, the group realized there was a small warehouse’s worth of goods in their hideout. Crated and disassembled furniture and vehicles, along with a small amount of coin (and an ungodly amount of copper), a couple of wands, and a goodly amount of various trade goods (sacks of wheat, boxes of tools, nails). They agreed to split what they’d found with Darvin and Rich (at least to some extent… Darvin was more forgiving, but Rich was definitely more mercenary. Garden did give him an octopus ring he found though.)

Evelyn declared herself greatly hungered (she had been awake for two days at this time), and Sticks, ever-eager to serve, made her a fresh darkmantle steak. It was actually surprisingly good! He also kept trying to offer everyone mushrooms, but nearly everyone declined. Also, when Charissa heard Garden calling Sticks a "homacle," she face-palmed and painfully corrected, "Homunculus."

The group discovered there was one larger passageway out of the caverns, which led to a secret entrance to a dockside warehouse. Perhaps the goods would have been disassembled further to transport them elsewhere, but for right now, the group had a place to temporarily put what they’d found. Evelyn recognized one of the carriages they’d found from a description she’d heard at a party, and the group realized they could get a handsome finder’s fee for most of this stuff, as well as getting in good standing with the Merchant’s Guild, if they alerted them and tried to find the owners of the stolen things.

Never one to pass up a good opportunity to 1. Have other people do the heavy hauling and 2. Get favors in useful places, they went to talk to the Merchant’s Guild. Quickly. Very quickly. Before the dark creepers came back with reinforcements…
 

Azkorra

Explorer
Whoa, you've really used some awesome, crazy ideas there in your story. An awakened octopus wizard? A wemic paladin? A friendly beholder? Homunculi, dark creepers, wax golems, pseudodragons? Allf of these elements do not tend to be used very often (if at all), and I'm very glad to see you've strayed quite far from the usual goblins-undead-and evil-wizards path. Kudos! :)
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 18

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had just defeated a band of dark creepers, rescued Garden (or perhaps provided a distraction while he rescued himself), and were taking possession of their ill-gotten goods. Having discovered that there was a passageway that led to a warehouse where presumably the goods were funneled undercity, they would use the same route to get everything out. Where the dark creepers took the goods after that was somewhat of a mystery, as the majority of the things left behind wouldn’t fit through any other passageways out of the cavern. Presuming things had come from the warehouse in the first place, where they went after that and how was a puzzle. There might have been magic involved somehow, but if so it had been invoked far enough in the past as to leave no sign of itself to discerning eyes. Beyond that, they couldn’t hazard a guess.

Knowing the dark creepers might gather their courage and return, Garden and Charissa went to the Merchant’s Guild to report the stolen goods (and not incidentally, get their guards and porters to move the heavy stuff back). At worst, provided they were believed, they’d get a finder’s fee. At best, they’d get to keep the stuff after it went unclaimed.

The Merchant’s Guild is actually a layman’s branch of the Church of Waukeen, the goddess of wealth and trade. The Guild provides transportation, logistics, security, recordkeeping, and claims. The fees to get in it were quite high, so it was generally used mostly by those who dealt in expensive items or high volume, but there were enough benefits that those who could afford it, joined. It is a generalist Guild, focused on the mechanics of trade rather than any specific item or service. It would be less useful to people like Garden or Charissa, who deal in small, local trade in the middle and lower classes, mainly. But if Evelyn’s dress-making and fashion house business takes off, for example, she might be advised to join, as her expensive items would be traveling far.

Garden and Charissa reached the local office of the Dock Ward near noontide, and were passed by a nervous clerk to a more authoritative fellow who questioned them carefully. Garden to great pains to say he was acting on the authority of Evelyn and Steven Violette, thusly getting their names on the report over his. When pressed, Garden said he was an “associate” of theirs, though it was clear that Merchant Master Kavo was under the impression Garden was at least a part-time employee. Kavo took out a book of missing and stolen goods and had the twain tell about what they’d seen to verify their story. He did indeed match a few descriptions, enough to believe they weren’t lying about what they’d seen.

With dispatch (as the Origamis reminded him that the dark creepers might come back), Kavo summoned “Squad Three.” They proved to be a dozen half-orc merchant guards in studded leather, bearing short swords and axes, along with several porters and a couple of wagons. Garden got the impression that if this claim would have proved false, he would have been held responsible for the expense of fielding the Guild’s guards. So he tried to be friendly with their captain, named Red for the usual reasons, and they returned to the cavern in short order.

Meanwhile, the group was divvying up the goods. Altruistic only to a point, even William knew that trying to find the owners of several thousand loose coins or various common items was pointless. So the group gathered up the coins for themselves, along with a few common items of no unique value. (Well, aside from an octopus signet ring which they gave to Rich.) Aside from that, there were many huge items, mostly disassembled in crates – carriages, a sedan chair, a pavilion tent, various items of furniture, all of them quite luxurious, but there was also a common pony cart, which they knocked together for goods transport (in the off-chance the Origamis failed to bring back help). One very unique thing they found was a magically-lightened chest, which contained within it a dozen bridle mastiff puppies, all held in magical sleep through enchantments on their collars. (The design on the collars, a dog’s head with a crown for a collar, was one of the details Garden mentioned to Merchant Master Kavo, who reported that was the sigil of the Crowned Hound Kennel.)

Sticks, the homunculus stolen from the Bronze Gear, was keeping Evelyn (and any others who asked) plied with darkmantle steaks. The group had a close eye out for any returning dark creepers, but oddly it was Sticks who sidled up to Steven and asked, “Expecting com-pan-ee for dinner?” while looking up. Peering past the glare of the torches and lanterns, Steven spied a dark creeper in a crevice near the ceiling, watching them. It either did not seem to notice it had been spotted or didn’t care.

As the group didn’t care to start another fight when everyone was still smarting from wounds, no one lobbed anything at the creeper, and the creeper in return lobbed nothing at them.

Shortly after that, Squad Three arrived and began to load up the goods – William had extensive and exhaustive lists, naturally. While the loading was going on, Brother Darvin returned to the temple of Lathander, saying his people would want to know more about the dark creepers. Rich, Charissa, William, and Shandri decided to backtrack and find those dark creepers they’d left in the grick pit earlier. When they got there, they were not entirely surprised to find a single set of dark creeper rags left behind, and the rest of the creepers gone. They had gotten free and killed the one who had talked. A little investigation proved that the portal the group had initially gone through was active again, which meant the creepers had probably escaped through there. Knowing trying to run them down in the Blade was just asking for trouble, they returned to the rest of the party.

The goods were taken back to the Guild, Merchant Master Kavo evaluated what was there, and thanked the Violettes and their “diligent associates.” There was indeed a finder’s fee for the obvious goods – and if things were not claimed by their owners after they’d been notified, the group could have them.

Evelyn and Steven recognized one of the carriages recovered, one carved with elephants, made for the triumphant return of the Jassarian family’s eldest son from his successful trading mission in the exotic jungle land of Chult. The Violettes wanted to be the ones to return it, and Merchant Master Kavo agreed (though he sent along porters and a clerk to make sure the Jassarians knew the Merchant’s Guild had done their part as well). The Jassarians were thrilled, and extended an invitation to the Violettes to come to their celebration once they had set a date.

Charissa also wanted to be present when the puppies were returned to the Crowned Hound, because she had been looking for some trained guard dogs for her shop for a long time. The kennelmaster was indeed grateful for the return of the very expensive pureblood puppies (worth hundreds of gold each to the right buyer). Hearing Charissa’s tentative question that she was looking for guard dogs, the kennelmaster said for her role in returning his prize hounds, he would be willing to sell her a pair of trained mastiffs (not purebreds, though) for half his usual price, if she would be there to help train them. Charissa was quite thrilled at the bargain.

Garden was gleefully counting up profits in the background. And wondering when his sister’s dogs would be ready to pull him about town in a gnomish dogcart of impeccable subdued style. (His alter-ego, a much more elderly gnome, could get away with such theatrics when it suited him.)

All of those errands done, there was one everyone wanted to do as a group, and that was to take Sticks the homunculus back to the Bronze Gear. (Garden had paused to get Sticks’ name put on him in gold leaf as a thank-you present.) When they entered the brightly-lit busy tavern, all the homunculi servers stopped dead, then ran to greet Sticks. The owner, one Killian Bronze, was very happy indeed to see him. (“There you are, good boy, now back to work!”) He offered the group a meal on the house as they told him the story of how the rescued Sticks.

In the next month or so, about half the items were reclaimed, but some were not, so the group got a tidy sum of gold and a few things to keep or sell as they saw fit. There were two large unclaimed items that they took – one was a carriage finely carved with waves. Evelyn spent some of her money to get matched white horses to pull it and send their servant-urchin Kip to driving school. Also she claimed a large red-and-gold silk pavilion tent, and was determined to have a garden party. (Or, well, a winter garden party, being as it was in the middle of that season, but such things were fashionable.)

Now that she was becoming somewhat richer, she started to spend some of her (and Steven’s) gold to get the Violette manse up to standards so they wouldn’t disgrace themselves when they did have that party. It would take some time, a month or more, to do what was needed, but until then, the Jassarian’s party loomed…

Also looming is William’s graduation from the Etorchul Academy, Shandri quietly becoming the Queen of the Street Urchins, Evelyn and Steven’s return on their investments (their joint venture in the silk market from the lung wang dragon, Wu Yen, as well as Evelyn’s fashion house idea), Steven’s continuing relationship with Ravinica the Golden Queen, Evelyn’s jealousy over said relationship, Garden’s deepening scheme with the Origami Clan Elders, and Charissa making something explosive. Or well, she would, and is, but she keeps getting visits from Sticks next door, and he keeps bringing her food. And little random bits of metal. Why? She’s not entirely sure…

Also of note, Evelyn was casting one of her favorite spells, Learn Heritage, on Charissa, just in case she might have some connection to nobility somewhere (she's slowly working her way through the group), and discovered Charissa has fey blood running through her veins! Some where, she cannot say, but Charissa has had the first hint of a clue about her blood parents that she's had in her life.
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
And Now For Something Completely Different

Evelyn's player is participating in community theater for the next couple of months, so this campaign will be taking a brief, three-session hiatus.

In its place, we will be playing a brief, three-session mini-campaign using Magic of Incarnum (though still set in Waterdeep) - Lost Souls
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 18.5

DM's Note: Evelyn's player had one free weekend between the end of some summer obligations and GenCon, so we did another session of Family Matters before wrapping up Lost Souls the next week. Later this week we shall return to Family Matters for the foreseeable future.

This post is various e-mails to the players setting up session 19.

----------------------

Charissa, you are a dedicated worker. One who, upon occasion, will tune out things in order to keep to a task. Things like lunch. And not always because you’re doing alchemical work and don’t want to accidentally eat smokepowder. Yet for the past couple of weeks, every few days, a covered tray of lunch appears on your workbench as mysteriously as a mushroom – a bowl of hearty stew with bread, hot roasted meat on a crusty roll, some kind of steamed loaf with vegetables and sauce inside, nothing fancy, but often welcome in the cold of winter. It isn’t until the third or fourth (or seventh) time that you notice your benefactor – Sticks! You didn’t notice him immediately because homunculi are hardly unique in the Temple of Gond.

If you ask why he’s doing this, Sticks will tell you, “Am grateful for res-tor-ay-shun to my job. Would help others, but too far away. You are close. Enjoy!” It seems the kindness of your party have earned you a fan! Also, Sticks occasionally leaves little bits of metal, what look like little ingot ends that probably are falling out of the hems of people’s clothing in the Bronze Gear. It’s not a lot of metal, but put all of it together over a tenday or so and it’s enough to do a bit of experimenting and it doesn’t cost you a copper.

Now, you don’t pay much attention to gossip, but it seems that gossip pays attention to you. Or rather, people pay attention to gossip FOR you. There’s been talk that a plumacrafter from the far land of Maztica will be demonstrating something of his craft at an upcoming shindig. You recognize the term – your group returned a plumacraft chariot when you liberated those goods from the dark creepers. Purely on an academic, William-esque basis, it was very interesting to see those colorful feathers woven into a sturdy vehicle! And as a matter of fact, when you were taking a break to actually eat one of the meals Sticks had brought you, Lissa Threefingers came over to talk to you. (You remembered her; she’s the golem expert you talked to about wax golems.)

“So, if I am remembering right, you’re in tight with the Violettes.” With a nod of assent, Lissa went on, “It looks like the plumacraft, Kultaka, is only giving one public demonstration of his craft. And it’s at some party for a noble family, the Jassarians. Now, I can’t get an invitation. Something about how I ‘blow stuff up’ wherever I go, which is just exaggerating, says I! But you can. You know those nobles, the Violettes, and I just bet THEY can get an invitation. If you go and observe for me…” Lissa waves her abbreviated hands around, thinking. “I’ll owe you a favor. Deal?”

[Charissa said she’d do it, thinking she might be able to wrangle an invitation during the group’s bi-tenday meeting at the Empty Grave.]

--

Steven, Ravinica, the Golden Queen, is always very pleased to receive you at the Temple of Mystra. She is a quiet, dedicated woman, a scholar of ancient arts and magical transformations. She has been spending much of her time learning about the five hundred years she has missed since the Year of the Opening Flower. The temple elders, in return, are trying to learn about her. Though Ravinica is helpful, she hadn’t yet revealed all her secrets. She was, and still is, royalty, and the magical transformations she knows are nearly her only currency in this world without her kingdom. And she is a thrifty soul.

She finds you to be a calming and kind friend. Possibly, at some point, maybe more than a friend, but you are both cautious, practical people. You have patience. While she does get some amusement out of the social outings Evelyn drags her to, you know (because you can’t not) that she enjoys spending time with you pouring over tomes, or talking, just as much or more.

Ravinica does occasionally tell you things that would set some of your magical mentors on their ears. At one point she tells you, “My people were great travelers – not of great breadth, but of great depth. Rarely did we travel beyond our city walls, but instead crossed the boundaries of the planes, the worlds that lie parallel to ours, touching like pages in a book. We could travel between them, and established parts of our own kingdom not just in this world, but the others. I am as yet too weak and out of practice to travel, but if you were to go there, you might see the remains of what we built. We could bring pieces back with us, show how the simplest thing can change across the boundaries of worlds. Many of my people chose the life-power of the planes of energy to sink into their flesh, so that they would survive… Mayhaps, when I am strong again, you might like to travel with me?”

[Steven enthusiastically said yes. Part of this was genuine affection for Ravinica. Part of this was also the desire to not be where his sister was. Really, who could blame the man?]

--

Evelyn, you realize the Jassarian’s party will not just be a homecoming celebration for their son (Kovalo), but also something of a merchant’s showcase for what was brought back, as well as anything else in the family’s business. This is hardly unusual; with Waterdeep’s merchant nobility, a smart family would turn a mere social visit into business. Not vulgarly, of course. There would be “demonstrations” and “party favors,” but many informal contracts can be agreed upon during these parties.

The Jassarians deal in exotica – in addition to goods from Chult, they’re also having a demonstration from a Maztica plumacrafter, as well as a display of rare beasts in a magically heated menagerie. There should be ample inspiration for new fashion here, at the very least!

Ah, and speaking of investing, you’ve heard back from Wu Yen, your fellow dragon and your Kara Tur silk merchant. You invested the value of a flail snail shell, a good 3,000 gold to the right buyer. She sent a message that your investment has done quite well; you’ll be getting 4,500 back, 1,500gp more than what you invested. Huzzah! She asks if you will continue to invest, if so, how much. As for the remainder (if any), what form you would like the money in.

In regards to the house and fixing it up – it will cost about 1,000-gp to bring it up to the appropriate standards. The house itself is in decent enough shape, but over the years your family has sold many fine furnishings and goods, the garden is a mess, and you really lack enough servants for this neighborhood. Some of the money will go for interior and exterior redesign and some will go for year-long servant contracts. A really good “re-entry into polite society” party once everything is up to scratch will cost you somewhere between 300-500gp, depending on how many people you invite.

You also hear back from Madam Silverleaf. She’s begun to have some out-of-country orders come in. Only a few thus far, but it seems at least some are both reading and liking what they see in your magazine.

--

William – Your graduation from the Ethorchul Academy is excellent – in high style (you expected no less) with great pomp and circumstance. Your practical experience with your new friends let you pass your demonstrations very well, and your essays were… exhaustive. Your teachers dreaded no less. Shandri was there, blessed you without soaking your robes and gave you a gift of holy water she’d blessed herself, a hippocampus quill, and a waterproof writing book. She also had found a very nice bottle of bubbly wine to celebrate Order of the Vine-style!

Afterwards, you were approached by Lutharian Tashalorial, the elf Guild Wizard of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, the one who gave you your informal entrance exam. He says he’s interested in having you essentially intern with them. You’d be paid for your work, or could just put what you’d otherwise be paid towards your eventual entrance fee to the Guild (as you both know you need a bit more experience and skill to learn to be a Guild Wizard). The Order can always use a good mind and keen eyes.

Should you decide to accept, Lutharian has a task for you, to attend a party being thrown by the Jassarians, a noble family, to observe the Maztica plumacrafter who will be putting on a very rare demonstration. Your relative youth and non-official status actually make you ideal, as the plumacrafter cannot possibly take offense at a curious young man as he might at a city official.

[William was thrilled at the assignment. Really, he probably would have done it for free.]

--

Garden, your contact at the Marlith, Hob Stonecypher, is all full of smiles when you come in to work one day.

“It’s good to have friends in high places, isn’t it?” he says, in a cheery way that usually precedes either a difficult job or a practical joke. “I take it you know Shanna Deeps?”

Ah, um, oh dear. Yes, yes you do. One of the ladies from the Busty Wench, bought a bodice dagger. A bodice dagger of unusual size.

“She remembers ‘dear ol’ Granther’ with his ‘pretty weapons,’ and remembers him well enough to have gotten the Marlith a bit of a display at a merchant noble’s party. Jassarians – they’re throwing a shindig and bringing out all the exotica. It seems Shanna is the,” Hob takes a minute to snort with laughter, “one true love of one of the Jassarian boys. She went on and on about all the fancy weapons you had in the pamphlets you were handing around, and Fellok Jassarian goes up and contacts us for his contribution to the family fortunes at the party. Looks like M. Granther is going to be pressing the flesh next sixthday.”

Hob can’t hold back his laughter, and guffaws into his sleeve until he gets control of himself. “Tymora must love you, lad. Make us some good profit and I don’t have to tell you to keep your ears open. Mask only knows what villains will be rovin’ at such an affair.”

Hob manfully manages to hold back another wave of mirth at his own crude sense of humor.

[All humor aside, Garden is ready to wade once more into the fray of merchandizing.]
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 19

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had all spent part of the winter tending to their various enterprises (see prior post). But knowing that Fate seems to have things in store for them, and business opportunities come in many guises, the group is still meeting at the Empty Grave twice a tenday to have supper and talk about anything that comes along.

Amongst other things that happened, William graduated from the Etorchul Academy. Shandri had already presented her gifts, and the others also had things for him. Evelyn had found him some dress robes (it was out of style self-defense), and Garden and Charissa had gotten him what looked like a very nice wand. But twist it, and the top came off, revealing a sharp stiletto to pierce the hide of the unwitting.

During one of these meetings at the Empty Grave, Charissa interrupted Evelyn’s delighted chatter about this party she was attending (the Jassarian’s homecoming party for their eldest) with the tentative request for an invitation. To which Garden replied that he was already going on behalf of a business venture, and Charissa could go with him as a demonstrator. (She would be both the booth babe AND the booth simultaneously.) Raising an eyebrow, William said he was supposed to go on behalf of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, to which Shandri replied that she was going on behalf of the Order of the Vine.

Realizing that all of them were ending up at a party again, and that this probably presaged disaster, everyone called for a round of drinks.

During which, Garden sneaked out to go case the joint before the party the following week. The Jassarians lived in a fine house that had extensive gardens. A large tent was being erected there, and cages moved in for the menagerie.

While Garden was doing that, Evelyn was delighted to get most of the party into fancy clothes. Charissa was going to be wearing weapons, so it couldn’t be anything too terribly frilly, but Evelyn was determined to get her into something that wasn’t forge leathers or covered with alchemical stains. William too had to look like he belonged, and Shandri wouldn’t miss Charissa being styled by Evelyn for all the waters in the ocean, so both came along.

[Also, at one point during this week, Charissa both paid several urchins and also politely asked Shandri to be on the lookout for potential bards for the Order of the Vine. She was of the opinion that they definitely needed some trained bards as soon as possible. The first few seemed a bit too rough for the clientele they usually ended up serving (half-orcs singing bloody battle ballads on drums were a touch much), they did find one fellow they did want to interview – One Olaf Alehearth, a dwarven bard that played a xylophone of tuned drinking mugs. A project for very soon.]

--

The following sixthday, the party began. The Jassarians specialized in exotica – animals, foods, weapons, art, plants, people, the works. The eldest Jassarian son, Truvan, was circulating with three wild dwarf allies (very short, slender for dwarves, painted, pierced, and fiercely scowling) he’d made during his time in Chult. The rest of his guests drifted between the displays of things brought back from the jungle, along with related items such as exotic weaponry (displayed by Charissa, orders taken by Garden). Shandri was actually wearing a dress, of all things, using the diplomatic skill she’d gained in improving air-to-water-breather relations to subtly “bless” (i.e. water) the wine of those guests who were on the verge of becoming obnoxious, thusly doing her duty as a member of the Order of the Vine.

Evelyn, Steven, and Ravinica (the Golden Queen) were doing more socializing, though with Evelyn’s new business interests she was also bringing attention to the silk trade she was invested in, as well as her fabulous gown (“made by Madame Silverleaf, of course!”). That was hardly uncommon in these sorts of parties, and she had a few tentative nibbles of interest from some of the guests.

William mostly observed this or that until the bell was sounded for guests to come to the menagerie tent (where there was a tiger, a small crocodile, several monkeys, and many exotic birds displayed in cages) where the Maztica plumacrafter, Kultaka, would display his rare craft. William began taking reams of notes as Kultaka began weaving beautiful, multicolored feathers into helmets and shields, then lacing them with dusts, liquids, and powders as he chanted over them. He picked Charissa to hold a helmet he had just treated, and she was amazed at the steel-like strength of the seemingly insubstantial armor.

But as the demonstration went on, Evelyn noticed something odd. One of the cages behind Kultaka was a large cage holding a brightly-colored bird she’d heard called a macaw. The cage seemed rather large to hold it, but then again, it was a bird. But what truly caught her eye was that for one second, she didn’t see a macaw, but a bird-man the size of a fully-grown elf. But only for a second. What in the world…?

She sidled up to William, and then Charissa murmuring her observations. William could see through the illusion pretty easily, and was not happy at what he saw. They waited until the demonstration had concluded and dinner was about to start – the guests all filing out. Snagging the others, the party gathered around the cage. Evelyn cast a spell to enable her to understand what language the bird man was speaking, and they began talking to him. He was very depressed, but suddenly elated when he realized they could see him for who he truly was. He said he was Kreesh, an aarakocra, a native of Chult, and had been brought under a spell of illusion in the baggage train of Truvan Jassarian. His feathers provided extra power for the plumacrafter’s magic.

Garden went to free him from his locked cage, though fiddling with the lock at first also put him under the illusion of being a macaw (much to the group’s merriment) until he actually got the lock open.

Alarmed at the thought of any creature being enslaved, they asked a servant to bring Truvan Jassarian and the Lady Jassarian out (the younger son, Fellok Jassarian and his significant other, Shawna Deeps, came along as well). They explained what they had seen, and the color drained from Truvan’s face. He had his three wild dwarf allies brought from the dining room and questioned them in their native tongue. They said they had brought the aarakocra as a gift, and shrugged at the notion of slavery. (It seemed the laws of Chult were very different – if you were able to be caught, you deserved slavery.) Tersely, mortified at inadvertently causing another creature to be enslaved, Truvan asked if Kultaka, the plumacrafter, had known that the “macaw” was in face, an aarakocra. The wild dwarves said yes.

Lady Jassarian immediately called for Kultaka to be summoned from the dining room. The man was brought before them, and of her own volition, on the advice of both Steven and William, Lady Jassarian sent out for a priest of Mystra and a member of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, those who helped police the abuse of magic within Waterdeep. After a delay (it was snowy), both worthy gentlemen arrived. Those present questioned Kultaka fiercely, pointing out the evidence, but no expression creased his face. Not a once. He might have been thought just very stoic and stubborn, but the party started to get a bad feeling about the man’s unresponsiveness.

Charissa felt the man’s cheek, and all but groaned and reported he felt waxy. This was a wax golem, an imposter! Lady Jassarian sent her servants to check Kultaka’s room. Shawna Deeps spoke up unexpectedly, saying he’d gone to “refresh himself” just as dinner had started. Cursing, the group realized Kultaka could have nearly an hour’s head start on them, if he had put his decoy into place just when they confronted the Jassarians.

Garden said he knew the streets of the city better than anyone, and as snow had been falling lightly, Kultaka would be leaving footprints. And a man from a warm climate would find the cold temperatures of the city punishing. The Order mage agreed, saying he was no spring chicken to go hunting people down. But he could aid Garden. He would send his familiar, a fox, with him to help track by scent when footsteps might become muddled, and who could alert them in Garden needed help. The priest of Mystra could offer a tile that, once broken, could let the user run faster. Looking around, they asked if anyone else wanted to join Garden in the chase, and who wanted to stay behind to see if any information could be elicited from the wax golem… one way or another.
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 20

When we last left our intrepid heroes, Kultaka, the plumacrafter who had been complicit in enslaving an aarakocra, had fled from the Jassarian’s homecoming party, leaving behind a wax golem in his place. Quickly it was decided that Garden, Shandri, and William would go after him. The mage of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors sent his fox familiar with them to help track. Shandri had come for a party, not for a mad dash through the streets, so quickly ripped her skirts for greater mobility (provoking a shriek of outrage from Evelyn) and borrowed Grapes of Wrath from Charissa, and was ready to go.

The three ran through the streets, following the path through the fresh snow. Even though Kultaka had a head start on them, he was not dressed for the cold weather, not was he as familiar with the city. His sandals were also bleeding green dye into the snow, helping them pick out his trail when he crossed more trampled snow. Shandri quickly picked up Garden and carried him on her shoulders so they could keep up the pace. Going through one crossroads, they were ambushed! …By children throwing snowballs. A growl of disapproval in their directly and they scattered, and the group trotted on, the fox helping them stay on the right path.

A couple times they saw places where Kultaka must have rested, and once a place where he had attempted to climb to the roof, only to have the tile break under his hands, leaving an impression in the snow. Once Garden and William remembered that there was a duck pond ahead in the next intersection, and Shandri quickly detoured before they could slip. Kultaka must not have been so lucky, because there were slide marks on the snow, ending in a divot in a snowbank, decorated by a few feathers from his cape. But the tracks were getting fresher, and they knew they were close.

Finally they found had place where Kultaka had successfully climbed to the roof. Garden pulled out his collapsible grappling hook and thin cord, and snagged the edge of the roof. They climbed up, pulling William and fox after them. Peering in the dim light, reflected by the many lanterns and mage lights of Waterdeep, they actually saw their quarry! Kultaka was hustling along the roofs, his cape flapping in the wind. Shadri threw Grapes of Wrath, which wounded the man. Garden brought him his hand crossbow and fired a bolt smeared in drow sleep poison… into himself. He slumped on Shandri’s shoulders, asleep. William cast a spell of sleep, and this proved to be the key, as Kultaka slumped over. And began to slide towards the edge of the roof. Thinking fast, William cast the feather fall spell on him, getting him to the ground safely.

Shandri moved over to the place where he had gone over quickly, shaking Garden as she went to wake him up, and asked William if he had another of those spells available. He did, and cast it again as Shandri jumped off the roof after Kultaka. She proceeded to tie the man up (Garden helping as soon as he shook off his grogginess and embarrassment), and then Garden tossed the grappling hook up so William could climb down. Well, at least he landed in a soft snowbank.

--

Meanwhile, Charissa, Steve, Evelyn, Lady Jassarian and her two sons, Truvan and Fellock (along with Fellock’s one true love, Shawna Deeps), Truvan’s wild dwarf allies, and the aarakocra Kreesh were questioning the wax golem. More the first three than anyone else. The party remembered that Jayrin’s wax golem had three command words, a shutdown one, one that make them follow simple commands given to them by the activator, and a full personality mode. Evelyn thought to deactivate the golem and then reactivate it under her control to get information out of it.

The mage from the Order was very impressed that they knew the command words, and the party gave him a highly edited version of the story of how they’d acquired them.

The shutdown command worked well, but when Evelyn tried to activate it again, it suddenly lunged at her and locked its hands around her throat. Steven wrestled its hands off his sister’s throat while Charissa quickly deactivated it. Then Steven cut the golem’s hands off, and bound all its limbs to within an inch of its existence. Apparently there was a safety measure of some sort built into this creation. With the golem now tied, they tried again, and this time it worked.

Well, it worked so far in that it became active and wasn’t able to hurt them, but it wouldn’t answer their questions. The Order mage pondered and suggested that if it had been programmed to only respond to the one who it had been made for, it was likely, given their description of Yalla the golem maker, that the maker might have put in an override using a language he knew that Kultaka didn’t. The group remembered Yalla’s odd history, that he had been born an elf before being reincarnated as a halfling. Trying elven, the golem suddenly began to answer!

(The group was admittedly curious at first if Yalla had made this golem, being that Yalla was dead, but Truvan Jassarian pointed out that the Mazticans had been in the city for six moons, well before Yalla was killed.)

The golem mostly said yes or no, with occasionally a longer answer if pressed. With a bit of effort, they learned the following – Kultaka had dealt with the wild dwarves because the power of a sentient bird’s feathers would be incredibly potent to a plumacrafter. Apparently Kultaka had not scrupled to gain them. When asked if the golem knew where Kultaka would go if on the run, the golem said, “The Cage of Birds.” Translated literally from elven, that actually meant aviary, which would have been a powerful arsenal to a plumacrafter, though one of last resort, as it would be very obvious. It seemed Kultaka had been on a mission of personal aggrandizement, and woe to anyone caught in his way.

The Order mage sent a message to his familiar, who pawed it out in the snow for those bringing Kultaka back, asking where they’d caught him. Saying south, close to the arena (where the aviary was located), the group realized they had had a close call. Shandri hauled Kultaka back to the Jassarian manor, Garden have taken control of the man’s magic items, and William analyzing them for all he was worth (for when would he have the chance otherwise?).

The Order mage, and the priest of Mystra who had also come to aid him, would take the man to the Hall of Justice. Amongst Kultaka’s items were Kreesh, the aarakocra’s feathers, which the group gave back to him. Though no one had any additional translation magic left this day, through sign gestures and a few words of Common, William said he’d be happy to talk to him more in-depth tomorrow, and help him get back home (with the backing of the Jassarians, because they were utterly mortified and shamed).

During this time, Evelyn had chivvied Shandri into a back room, summoned Madame Silverleaf, and was attempting to fix Shandri’s dress. This was serious business.

Truvan Jassarian told the party he was incredibly grateful that they had not only stopped a crime and scandal from perpetuating under his family name, and had freed a thinking being from bondage, but had done so discretely. He said he would like to reward them, investing in whatever business ventures they held dear. Fallock and Shawna Deeps would be delighted to see Garden and Charissa’s shop (there was some private grumbling later about having to hide the less-than-legal display items), where the Jassarians would help them with materials and clients, etc. William asked for funding research, Shandri to sponsor urchins at the Urchin Postal Service, Evelyn for her fashion house business, and Steven… asked for an investment for a good friend (Ravinica, the Golden Queen, was doing private magical research of her own).

Shandri’s fashion crisis finally averted (with a new paneled skirt), the Jassarians were happy to have the group rejoin the festivities – a fine dinner, followed by dancing.

During the dancing, Evelyn was greeted by a handsome red-haired man, Gerrard Allard, as the music struck up, who asked her to dance. Steven, dancing with Ravinica, glared for all he was worth. As he was dancing, he managed to trip Gerrard several times. Evelyn had to lead the dance to save her suddenly-clumsy partner from disaster.

Shandri, a bit tired and chilled from her case through the snowy streets, had maybe one cup too man of hot mulled wine. She stayed on the sidelines with William, bemoaning about a friendly bartender she knew in her neighborhood. William finally took pity on her and danced with her himself… eventually positioning Shandri to get tapped by the sobering end of Grapes of Wrath, courtesy of Charissa, to shake her out of her maudlin mood.

Charissa was approached by a short, scholarly looking young man who introduced himself as Marlowe Miccar. He seemed terribly in awe of her as he explained he did find her wonderfully tall… and oh, yes, right, also he was supposed to be learning and making something of himself, and she seemed to have things figured right out. He explained he’d graduated from Etorchul Academy last year (and he knew of William, who had the longest entry essay in the school’s history). His family was mostly invested in the Clerk, Scribe, and Scriveners’ Guild, but Marlowe was interested in something a bit more… physical. He was interested in applying magic to the crafting process, and thought the weapons she sported were exceptionally fine, very good for enchanting. Did Charissa think he could be of use in her work?

Usually leaving business decisions to her brother, Charissa moved Marlowe over to where Garden was having several conversations with people. After the usual amusing introductions of, “little sister, big brother,” and an explanation, the Origamis were quite interested to have someone like Marlowe at their beck and call- er, that is, as a possible business partner.

On the bench next to them, Princess, Evelyn’s familiar, and Pico, Marlowe’s teacup poodle familiar, were comparing their fluffy white coats. Princess won, naturally. Pico was a very wise dog.

After the party, Steven invited Ravinica to come stay the night at the Violette manor, in the guest bedroom. Evelyn was utterly crushed.

And so, our story continues…
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 20.5 - Steven's Duel

Steven set out early the day after the Jassarian’s party, a matter of family honor to attend to. Gerard had been far too familiar towards his sister, and that could not be allowed to stand. Evelyn’s reputation was not to be besmirched, not by a dandy like that, and not before a quarter of the prominent families of Sea Ward! Kissing a lady on the cheek without her invitation or permission, who did the man think he was? Knowing he had to do his brotherly duty (and perhaps taking some pleasure in it), Steven went to make a call.

A quick pass by the Halls of Justice and the Temple of Tyr assured him that the duel would be appropriately monitored and not get his family nor temple into trouble. (As satisfying as it would be to just slap the man with a steel gauntlet until he cried like a child, Steven wouldn’t sully his family name with a blatant crime.) The early hour assured that Evelyn wouldn’t even think of wondering where he was until noon.

He arrived at Gerard’s house, armored and armed, and waited for the man to be brought to him. Puffy-eyed and suffering the after-effects of a touch too much wine, Gerard came down to the foyer with ill grace. Upon which Steve took out his leather glove, stiff with cold, and struck the man smartly across his cheek and insolent mouth.

“A duel for my sister’s honor. In an hour, on the dueling grounds.”

The slap seemed to have gotten Gerard’s blood flowing to his brain, and he paled a bit when he recognized the purple-scaled man was the brother to the woman he’d kissed in public last night. Steven left him sputtering protests.

An hour later, seconded by Sir Julian, a friend from the temple of Mystra, a pale-faced Gerard arrived on the snow-covered dueling grounds, seconded by an extremely large man who had to have had some giant blood in him somewhere. Or had possibly gotten into an enlarge potion spell as a baby and it had stuck.

“Sir Violette, my affection for your sister remains true! I would not have shown my affection were it not!” Gerard protested, once he was in range of Steven’s hearing.

Steven’s answer was a glare, and he drew his sword. The Warden looked at both men with a raised eyebrow, and gestured to the circle carved in the snow.

“To first blood, gentlemen. And then the matter is settled. Any trickery on your parts, any attempts at murder and you will be branded a criminal. May Torm see this duel through and honor be satisfied!”

For a moment Steven thought Gerard’s courage would fail him, and he would call his monstrous second to take his place. But with a bit of a hard swallow, Gerard tossed off his fur cloak, took up his rapier, and placed himself en garde.

Gerard was not trained as a warrior. A best, the man knew dancing better than fighting, or at least he only knew the sort of fighting that looks lovely but could only take down a drunken thug. Your sword clashes against his lighter blade, and though he makes several theatrical flourishes, you soon slip under his guard and flick your blade across the top of his shoulder. Red stains the blue silk there, and he yields with a faint gasp of pain.

“Sir Violette, you have won with honor. May this quarrel between you be satisfied,” the Warden said, with a stern look at the both of you.

Gerard moves aside, allowing his second to bind his shoulder, and halts Steven would he would have left.

“Sir Violette…” he pauses and winces as the bandages on his shoulder pull. “Truly, I meant no dishonor to your sister. I had… had a bit too much wine, really, and she is lovely and kind.” His second hands him a flask, and he takes a sip before passing it to you. It smells of fine cherry spirits. “My apologies, sir?”

[Steven's response]

Steven will look at Gerard with a little distain. "You have acted a boor, and so far seem unworthy of my sister's attention. She is a fine and virtuous woman (bluff check?), and is only worthy of the attention of the most prominent and powerful men." He says. "If you want to be seen in the company of my sister again, you will have to prove to my parents that you are worthy and can provide a substantial dowry for her. Otherwise, if I see you so much as glance in her direction, then we will have to have a far more.... serious... discussion".

[DM's response]

Gerard seemed very contrite, possibly aided by the wound in his shoulder, and said he would call upon her parents to talk very soon. It was clear, from the way Steven talked that the Violette family would be providing no dowery. Being as they were spellscales, and descended from dragons, potential suitors provided a Bride Price - a potential hoard, as it were, to anyone who wished to marry into the family.
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Sessions 21 & 22

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had captured Koltaka and won the gratitude of the Jassarian family for their discrete saving of their reputation. That next morning, more fun and games began. Steven challenged Gerard Allard (a fellow who knew his sister and had kissed her on the cheek, in public no less!) to a duel, and scared him even more when after the duel, after subtly threatening him to treat his sister well, had told him female dragons eat their mates, and only true and virtuous love would save him. Good luck, there.

Some of the Jassarian family, namely Fellok Jassarian (the younger son) and his fiancé Shawna Deeps would be coming to see Garden and Charissa’s shop. The arrived late one morning a few days after the party, and (since Garden had cleaned up his shop of all hints of less-than-legal enterprises) took a tour of the place. Fellok was very taken with Charissa’s gun, and wanted to fire it. While she was taking him through the various instructions (and helping brace him for his shots), Shawna told Garden she’d be right back, and slipped out.

Not too much later, Shawna was knocking on William’s door (he was staying at his uncle’s place in the Dock Ward). She explained to him that she knew his cousin Shandri, and really needed their help, as they seemed to be the sort of people that could help others, and not just the rich and powerful, but the unknown and unregarded as well. Shawna explained she had a friend, a fellow dancer from the Busty Wench tavern called Shell. She had been entertaining at a ship called the Singing Lark and hadn’t made it home last night. People had seen her leaving the ship safely, but after that Shawna had heard that she had been lost sight of near the temple of Umberlee (the ill-tempered goddess of the ocean). Shawna was getting rather worried, as Shell was a cautious woman who could take care of herself, and it wasn’t like her not to check in back at the Busty Wench. And Shawna, having climbed to a higher social stratum than many of her friends, was determined not to let Shell fall through the cracks.

William, being the good-hearted sort and certainly not one to let people go missing in his neighborhood, said he would look into it. Shawna thanked him, kissed him on the cheek, and gave him one of her calling cards (which were stored in her cleavage, naturally. One probably could have put calling cards, rations for a week, a tent, and a small dog in Shawna Deeps’ cleavage.).

A little later that day, at the party’s meeting at the Empty Grave, William explained the situation. Since over half the party lived or worked in the Dock Ward, one couldn’t stand the thought of people being captured or kidnapped (Steven), and the last knew a good favor on the horizon if she saved the friend of fellow social climber (Evelyn), they all willingly went to look into things. Along the route from the Singing Lark was a bar called the Rusty Nail (one well-known to Shandri, as it contained a bartender she was sweet on, a fellow called Randal), and the group stopped there to see if Shell had been by.

The bartender remembered her vaguely, but the night had been busy. He called over his bouncer, a viciously scarred half-orc with very sharp tusks called Mangle, and had the group talked to him. After plying him with a few gold pieces (which Mangle bit holes in to string on his money belt), Mangle said Shell had been in there the previous night. She’d been talking to a priest of Umberlee called Brother Lyric, and the two had left together, willingly as far as he could tell, for the temple.

(As an aside, there were several ships’ crews in the Rusty Nail, most notably the all-woman crew of privateers from the Screaming Harpy. Steven gave them Gerard Allard’s address, just because.)

Thusly armed, the group headed for Umberlee’s temple. The place was situated right on the water, with part of the stairs leading right into the ocean. It was made from stone as well as ships shattered by Umberlee’s wrath, the temple soaring to great heights above their heads from the hulls used to form its walls and roof. Shandri, being from essentially a rival church, and Garden, on general principle, decided to stay outside… just in case. The others entered, and saw the ocean was very present here, waves lapping from many tide pools in the floor. Whale bones, squid beaks, shark teeth, and giant pearls were used to decorate the walls and altar, while treasure from temple donations and sacrifices proved that Umberlee was one of the great goddesses of Faerûn.

Asking after Brother Lyric, the group was brought to a back chamber. They inquired about Shell, and Brother Lyric said he had indeed been with her the other night, and that Shell had asked about converting to Umberlee’s faith. He had sent her to Salt Isle, a small shrine out in the harbor, so she could undergo rituals and instructions to dedicate herself to Umberlee. He seemed to be very sincere and believable but Steven was pretty sure he was entirely full of manure. However, they had nothing in particular to get him to tell the truth, no real evidence, and so decided to leave, possibly to go to Salt Isle in person and find Shell.

Meanwhile, outside, Shandri and Garden had noticed the periodically people bearing Umberlee’s holy symbol would step down the front steps of the church into the water and swim out in the harbor, bearing large clam shells strapped to their backs (and presumably magic to help protect them from the cold water). Such things would make superior waterproof containers, but they were also just big enough hold a slender woman like Shell. Because Shandri had some power of the ocean to breathe water, she had Garden keep watch for any more trouble, went a little further up the docks, and slipped into the ocean to do a little spying.

She returned a while later, after the group had returned to Garden and relayed their suspicions, blue around the lips from cold, but reported that Salt Isle had an entire underwater extension, a sort of pillar of salt that ran to the bottom of the bay, just barely encrusting the wreck of a large ship. And that the shells were going to Salt Isle.

Going to Salt Isle openly wouldn’t work, the party decided, as none of them had a good reason to be there, and Shell might be in an area not open to the public. It was basically ridiculous that she was truly converting to Umberlee’s faith, but it might have been possible that she had been magically charmed or enchanted. Either way, Brother Lyric wouldn’t want anyone finding her (someone so smarmy must have wanted Shell silenced because he said something he shouldn’t). So the group had to go in another way.

And Garden had just that way. You see, he aspired to learn the ways of the gnome artificer, and thusly had made friends with the Spectacular Order of the Flaming Falseness (who did pyrotechnics and illusions for players), the Noble Assembly of Mechanical Muses (who created unusual mechanical objects), and the Aquatic Order of the Darkening Deeps, who used their submersible vehicle, the Dancing Duck, to help patrol the harbor.

Each of those Orders or Assemblies was the name of the same group of people – three gnome artificers of great talent and small sanity. Their leader was Quintucket Duckle Macramé Fusse, known as Quint. He wore everything braided, from his clothing to his hair to his moustache, bore a pair of goggles constantly, and had a nose for the exciting and the absurd. Grinkle Forswaithe Freemantle Klabble, known as Grin, was an expert in explosives and guns, and carried no less than four pistols (including a pepperbox) at any one time. The last was Almoga Mulberry Minglebat Prickle, known as Almo. She was a potion expert as well as a fine navigator, and wore a portable still of magically hardened glass that wove around her body.

The group met them in the Rusty Nail, and after the Aquatic Order of the Darkening Deeps had paid their usual damage deposit, listened to the group’s proposal with interest. And said they’d help, because it’d be fun.

Oh, would it ever.

The group climbed down into the Dancing Duck, and Quint shooed them into the underground viewing chamber, which was sized for big folks. He mentioned the Duck would be in illusory stealth (“manta ray”) mode as they made for the ship at the bottom of Salt Isle. Quint said his group would not be going in with the group, but rather keeping the attention of Umberlee’s people above the level of the ship so the group could look for Shell without attracting too much attention. But they did have something for them that might make exploration easier. Almo gave them a goldfish in a large clear bladder filled with water. When the fish was released, it would make the water breathable by both air and water-dwellers, keeping them from drowning. Also they gave them a great horn that would be heard underwater, letting the Aquatic Assembly of the Darkening Deeps know when to return for the party.

With the fish and horn in hand, the Duck docked at a portal on the top deck of the ship (which was dry and had air to breathe), and the party quickly went aboard as the Duck went up to begin their distractions. The group began to look about, and found two things. One, the stairs down to the lower decks was flooded with sea water. Two, a storeroom was full of waterproof kelp suits and stiffened kelp-and-sharkskin flipper. Everyone in the group put both a suit and flippers on, released the magic fish, and went down to the lower decks.

What they saw was horrifying. Hammocks were cradling the large shells, and many of them were being tended to by ixitxachitl (sentient evil race of manta ray-like creatures). And by “tended to” that means the ixitxachitl were stabbing their poisonous tails into some of the shells. William could see transmutation magic was going on in all the shells. The ones at the back seemed to be most recently arrived, so Evelyn used a spell that compelled one of the ixitxachitls to give her a gift, namely something it was holding. Namely the newest shell at the back of the room. It did so without question, though one of the other ixitxachitl spoke to William (he looked the most aquatic of the group; also he luckily spoke Aquatic), asking him if “that one was going to be replaced, because it wasn’t ready yet.” As William explained (backed by Shandri, who spouted off some of Umberlee’s dogma) that certain specimens were needed for other purposes, Evelyn got two more ixitxachitl to each give her another shell. Charissa and Shandri shouldered them without complaint.

The lead ixitxachitl complained about “the deal being altered,” and if they didn’t have replacements for those three by sundown, there would have to be “a discussion.” William and Shandri made reassuring noises while everyone backed up and out of the water, and then everyone all but dashed upstairs, gathered their clothes, and had Evelyn blow the horn to summon the Dancing Duck. Judging by the insane laughter coming from some of the barred passages above, and some muted explosions, it sounded like they were having a good time.

The Dancing Duck picked them up quickly, and Quint and Grin asked the party to mount the cannons and harpoon guns on the Duck so they could fend off the huge, ill-tempered sharks that were after them. Charissa hadn’t had this much fun in an age, and the Dancing Duck wove through the deeps as the group fended off giant squids and sharks until they’d reached quieter depths.

Hours later, they were able to double back and come up at Shandri’s Temple of Istishia. They took out the three shells, and explained what happened to Shandri’s superiors as they worked to open the shells. Inside one was Shell herself, still alive, but she’d been changed. Her skin was slightly blue, and slightly scaled, and her hands and feet were slightly webbed. And she had gills. She’d been lying on a bed of gold and silver roses, apparently a material component for whatever ritual that had been being done to her, in order to preserve her beauty.

Inside another shell was a man who’d been warped into a horrific clawed and fanged fish-creature with bulging eyes (shards of crystal had been in his shell). He was still alive, but had no memory of his prior life. Evelyn carefully lured him into one of the temple’s underwater retreat cells (the man could barely tolerate breathing air) to keep him from hurting anyone. The last one, a young lady in armor, hadn’t survived her transformation. There was a sword in her shell, one made of black metal with very faint runes of evil, though they were nearly worn away.

Shell, though still shocky, explained that Brother Lyric had inadvertently told her he was making some deal with the ixitxachitl for “Umberlee’s Glory,” and had magically charmed her to get her to Salt Isle when he realized she could reveal his plans to people he’d rather not have known.

Evelyn said that Shell would be more exotic now, and thusly could command higher prices. Shell thanked her rather dubiously.

The group sent messages to the Temple of Mystra, as well as the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, who all met at the Temple of Istishia. A full assault on Salt Isle was out, as getting into a holy war against Umberlee would be a disaster, but everyone was in agreement that this would not stand, and a confrontation must be made…
 

Azkorra

Explorer
Thanks for another great update! Nice to see another quite uncommon race being featured, and the idea of a submarine built by three super-freakish gnomes (their descriptions are hilarious) is simply awesome. Kudos to Ur creativity! :)
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 23

When we last left our intrepid heroes they had just rescued a dancer named Shell, and at least one other luckless soul from Salt Isle, a private temple of Umberlee. Priests of Mystra and mages from the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors had been summoned to see what could be done. They could not risk a holy war with Umberlee’s faithful, but both the priests and mages could speak with the head of Umberlee’s church immediately and find out what in the world they thought was going on (backed with enough evidence to avoid lies).

Several hours later, the delegation returned with some sobering news. Apparently Brother Lyric had been put in charge of receiving certain tribute to Salt Isle (that was what most of those shell containers that were going from the temple on the Docks contained), as well as in restoring the ship on the bottom of Salt Isle. That ship was now gone, along with a large amount of tribute and one Sister Mirra. Apparently her and Lyric had made contact with the ixitchaital and bargained for their own purposes, rather than that of the faith. The head priest of Umberlee had been very angry to hear what they had been up to, appalled at the state of the victims, and livid at the loss of the ship. According to him it had been sealed off while under construction, and Brother Lyric and Sister Mirra must have been funneling tribute down there as well as their victims.

Umberlee’s priests were looking for the ship now, but it seems that Brother Lyric had not been on Salt Isle today, and was most likely somewhere in Dock Ward. The group immediately volunteered to go help look for him, help gratefully accepted. Shandri found someone in her temple (as they were all still in the Temple of Istishia) to make fair likenesses of Lyric’s face, the Order mage magically made several copies, and she distributed them to her squad of UPS urchins and scattered them down the dock.

The group also took several copies and headed that way themselves, to ask questions of people who might ignore urchins. Eventually they found evidence he’d been heading down the dock proper, looking for a ship. And oddly enough, there was a powerful storm brewing right now. The group went to talk to the Singing Lark, the last ship Shell had performed on, as they might be sympathetic to her plight, and they said they had seen him heading towards the larger passenger ships. But it was finally with one of the crew of the all-female Screaming Harpy, a sailor named Sasha, who both recognized Lyric and said he’d left on a huge ship called the Storm Wind an hour prior. But the Storm Wind had turned back and docked in the storm.

Thusly armed, the group went to speak to the captain of the Storm Wind, who thought them mad for being out in this weather, but was even more mad to think he might be harboring a criminal of Umberlee’s church. He told the crew Lyric was in one of the lower holds, him and some of his cargo.

The group went to confront him, the ship sloshing and rocking at its berth as the storm reached its height. Lyric, being very paranoid, took one look at the group and opened up one of the huge crates he’d brought with him. In burst open in a gush of water, filling the hold to a depth of three feet, and revealing two angry scrags (water trolls). Swearing mightily, the party waded in (sometimes literally) to the fight. William used magic to hold Lyric, making him fall over in the water. Garden climbed atop him, not just to keep his head above water, but also to keep him in one place. (He wasn’t particularly fussed if Lyric drowned; he didn’t have a high opinion of the man.)

Evelyn would paralyze one troll or the other with Margul, the dreaded freeze, and Garden skewered them in vulnerable areas, while Charissa shot her gun with superb accuracy, Steven wielded his new sword, and Shandri empowered them with the blessings of Istishia. Though the trolls regenerated in water, and their claws and fangs ripped into Steven and Garden, the party was able to finally decapitate them. The crew of the Storm Wind had been right outside the hold, ready to lend a hand if the trolls had tried to get past them.

The storm, perhaps not so strangely, began to subside right then.

When the party came up to the top, the priests of Mystra and the Order mages were just arriving, along with a very impressive-looking man in rich blue and green robes encrusted with pearls, bearing a massive holy symbol. This was the high priest of Umberlee, and he was NOT happy with Brother Lyric. With sharp words of condemnation, the high priest grabbed Lyric and threw him into the sea, transforming him into a hapless fish as he did for his punishment.

In the shark-heavy storm-tossed seas, he wouldn’t last an hour.

The other cargo containers Lyric had were taken out as well. Aside from some scrags-in-a-box, the other contained an ebony-and-silver chest, as well as several of the large clam shells filled with treasure. The high priest claimed the clam shells as stolen tribute, but after looking in the chest, said the remainder was Lyric’s personal gear, and “to the victor, go the spoils.”

Lyric, it seemed, was not a man to stint himself, and the group was mildly pleased at the rich amount of things they would be able to sell and split amongst themselves.

The group was perhaps pleased, if also puzzled, the next morning when another of those mysterious boxes appeared in each of their residences, bypassing any of the security they had set up. Inside this box were five thousand gold coins.

A bit perturbed, but unwilling to let the gold go to waste, the group set about using that money wisely.

----------------------

It is six weeks to Midwinter and the great party that Evelyn is throwing to show off the newly-renovated House of Violette, and the group has been very busy.

Evelyn – Midwinter is coming up soon, and you’ve been busy restoring your home to its former glory and then some. Repairs done, walls painted, murals retouched or created, and various furnishings and artwork repairs or acquired, now the House of Violette looks its status both inside and out. The home now has the appropriate number of servants, and Molly is the housekeeper over them all. Even the butler and steward bow to her expertise and seniority in the household. Also, they’re properly terrified of her.

The house gardens and back court now look splendid, even in the winter. There is a tent set up there now to heat the gardens and let them bloom in midwinter. Your party looks as if it will be fantastic! The Order of the Vine is coming to help regulate your newly-replenished cellars, you have musicians coming from the temple of Oghma, and your kitchen staff will make a fine feast.

You’ve also been working with Wu Yen, the lung wang dragon on the Waterdeep Council of Wyrms, for your silk business. Madame Silverleaf wanted you to see if you could broker a deal because she’s started getting orders from Calimshan, and they prefer silk in that hot clime. Your investments are doing quite well (you have a return of 2,000 right now), and Wu Yen can arrange for that discount. She is also willing to pay that return not just in gold, but in, say magical items or instruction as well. (Evelyn primarily wants to use the cash to maintain her new lifestyle, but will also accept some instruction in different spells, should she see something that tickles her fancy.)

Steven – Steven and Ravinica buy a house, the House of Violette the Younger, a fine small manor in Sea Ward close to the Temple of Mystra. Ravinica intends to expand the house through several other planes, making it far more generous on the inside than it would appear. The house is made of a curious sort of blue stone.

He also spends time researching his new sword, and learns he must to a ritual to unlock the power inside, that of a sleeping paladin’s soul. He must spend a day purifying the evil out of a vile magical artifact. The Temple of Mystra does not have any on hand, but should you head to the Temple of Ilmater, the halls of the god of mercy and suffering sometimes to play host to evil items before they are cleansed. And if someone is willing to help them in that task, they are happy to have you. You spend a day in very prayerful contemplation, chanting and washing a nasty assassins dagger in holy water, until at the end of the day is has dissolved. It is this act that opens a small conduit between you and Excordius.

Garden – [This was in response to several specific questions/requests by the player] You can, with cash in hand, convince one of your abutting neighbors to find alternative accommodations, and then with the help of some clansgnomes, knock down the adjoining wall, expand the size of your shop, put up the shooting range, lock experimentation area, and alchemist’s area, as well as making all the attendant security upgrades.

There is no particular guild for subtle bodyguards, as it seems they’re usually individually trained. Some of them do come from the Temple of Helm, the Watchful Protector, and that would be the closest to a bodyguard service in the city. It would upset no order to supply subtle guards, if you so wanted. The clan has no objections, as gnomes would actually be ideal for such a job (who expects a gnome? Nobody, that’s who).

The Shadow Thieves do have a chart for the amount of gold that needs to be paid to make a home off-limits, but it’s also based on politics. Some families or households do not provide protection money to the guild because it's more politic to leave them alone. And that "off-limits" designation can be lifted if the household threatens the profits of the guild.

Garden also spends several days a week visiting Shell in the Temple of Istishia, talking with her, becoming friends, and bolstering her spirits.

Charissa – You work with another alchemist to develop the quicksober powder, a different form of an obscure spell of the same name. A batch is good for five doses, which run about ten gold each. So while not terribly cheap, it is quite useful and more discreet than hitting someone with a warhammer.

You also work with Marlowe Miccar to produce your silencer charm. The young man does lose some of his stammering nervousness when he works, becoming very businesslike and focused. Pico, his teacup poodle familiar, comes along in magically warmed fleece-lined carrier, and stands comically fierce guard while Marlowe works with you. The dog may be smaller than your shoe, but he is very loyal.

You take on some additional commissions as a result of the contacts made during the Jassarian party, bringing your average income to seventy a week for the past six weeks.

The Vintner’s Guild is charging small parties twenty gold for the services of the Order of the Vine, and large parties anywhere from fifty to one hundred, depending on the size of the party and the number of Knights needed. The Guild takes a twenty-five percent cut of your fee, gets to market their wares to the party organizer, and offers you guild space and resources. So they will allow any Order member a bed and board at any Guild Hall in the city, take care of uniform and tabards, and you may call upon Guild resources should you run into difficulty. As you are being advertised as a combination of entertainers and security that justifies your higher prices over just a bard or just a mercenary.

William – You do some scroll-making and research in the Order library. To make ends meet, you’ve also been working in the warehouse, as not to be a mooch.

Shandri – Been doing swimming lesons, working with UPS, talking to Shell, and learning from temple of Siamorphe.
 
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Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Sessions 24, 25, and 26

(Session 24)

When we last left our intrepid heroes, the following things happened:

Steven and Ravinica got married and bought a house.

The group all attended their wedding and a housewarming - where it was revealed Ravinica was doing home improvement across the planes. As in while you might walk into the dining room, which should be in the middle of the house, but yet it had a garden view… of Elysium.

Evelyn had her Midwinter party at the House of Violette, which went splendidly, shocking everyone involved. Everyone expected something horrible to happen when a party and all of them are together.

At that party, Garden had a warning from a man with a face-shaped-face that "enemies were returning from across the sea." He also seemed to know something about the money the group had been receiving anonymously. The man was well-dressed, but very unmemorable, and did not leave a name. Concerned, Garden let the group know.

Later that night, and the next day at the Empty Grave, the group worried that this warning could be about Melvin Mask, Father Geb, or Jayrin.

Jayrin had been exiled to Undermountain two months ago, so it was unlikely it was him.

But, just to be sure, William and Shandri went to check the evidence stored against him in the Halls of Justice. Checking out storage revealed his wax golem had gone missing, and, after a good deal of pressing, that the clerk had been bribed by someone matching Father Geb's description.

The group sought the maker of wax golems, Yalla, now named Bellicose Bluebottle Begonia Bee (they found him through Garden’s clan contacts). He now wore the outward form of a gnome. The group’s advertisement in the Yawning Portal Inn had borne fruit, and they were able to give out the reward for Yalla's bones to an adventurer called Amaranth and her mad bunch of friends. Having secured Yalla’s bones, the group gave them back to him, and he was happy to talk.

When the group mentioned about the plumacrafter’s golem attacking, he mentioned that he put failsafe commands in his mother tongue, elven, to which they should respond, if Jayrin’s wax golem showed up again. He had also heard some information about Father Geb, and was very pleased to give the group an address to a warehouse where he could be found.

Anticipating revenge, the group headed down to the docks…

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(Session 25)

The group went to warehouse, which was right on the docks. The scouted it out, primarily with Shandri’s UPS urchins. The place had doors on all sides, plus large cargo door, and a sewer entrance. Garden called three clansgnomes (triplets, Che – a roofwalker, Caleb – a spy, and Krack – a barbarian), to help cover the three smaller exits. Together the group ended up spending about a 100gp to cause a beer flashmob – a cart with several barrels of beer, a sign saying “free beer” and a couple guys to yell about free beer. The cart, oh so coincidentally, ended up outside the cargo door of the warehouse, providing a distraction from any noise the group would make.

The group entered through the sewers. Garden defeated several traps, but set off one that summoned fiendish centipedes, which the group defeated through knock-out spells and sleep poison. The last trap was a razor ladder with a scythe trap on top, tied to an alarm spell. Garden got them all but the alarm spell, much to his chagrin, though the traps did give them some white-knuckle moments.

Surprise spoiled, but undamaged, the group jumped up into the warehouse proper, and found themselves facing Father Geb, a couple of his associates, and five black skeletons (strong undead). Garden made his hand crossbow magic with his magical thread gift from the Wands family, Steven smited Geb, Charissa shot him many times. Horribly. In tender places. William put the helpers to sleep, and Shandri managed to turn undead after the second try (she’s unpracticed, poor lass).

Geb was horrificly wounded, but managed to flee via a dimension door effect. The group raced along the line of sight, and realized he could only be on a ship recently to sea. They thought they saw the crew covering something up with a tarp.

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(Session 26)

The group hired a skiff, one Seabird, captained by Brel Jan, and, after paying him, sent him after the ship. Pulling alongside, they used the strength of William’s Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors (associate) ID, Steven’s noble standing both as paladin and actual nobility, Shandri’s standing with the church of Istishia, and the not entirely untrue threat that hanging around with a wounded fugitive priest of the goddess of bad luck is not good for your health to get the ship to slow. Captain Josiah allowed the group to come aboard the Damned Curse of the North.

There was a slick spot on deck, possibly where blood had been wiped up, and a blood bit of loose canvas in a storage locker, that after being hit, unfortunately did not contain Geb. But it did have some bloody robes. The group decided to search the ship thoroughly. The first mate did tell them they had several plague victims on board who were going north for a cure, and the group might want to be wary.

Finding nothing in the captain or crew’s quarters, the group ventured to the plague ward, where the balding healer was stern with them, that they shouldn’t disturb the sufferers. A careful look at the victims revealed that several were under illusory disguises… possibly criminals smuggling themselves out of the city, but it was hard to say.

The healer said initially that he knew of Geb, but hadn’t seen him, and seemed sincere, but when showed a picture of Geb (that Gorden had sketched) let slip that that was a terrible likeness. Caught in at least an omission, if not an outright fib, the healer demurred he had seen Geb before, but not on the ship today.

As William had employed his goblet of truth, the healer did not seem to be lying, so the group continued to search. They did fine a crate in the cargo hold with fresh toolmarks, like someone had gotten into it recently. It held a fine selection of disguises. As the group was looking at this, there was a yell from the deck. Going up, they learned a cloaked figure, somewhat resembling Geb, had vanished from the deck, appeared on the Seabird, knocked out Captain Jan, and vanished again.

Dismayed, the group realized Geb, with his adroit skill at lying, strong will, and employment of spells to dampen the aura of magic items, had been the very healer they’d spoken to. He had healed himself up and concealed his face, waiting for the opportunity to escape. Furious, the group revived Captain Jan, and questioned the first mate very harshly. He eventually gave up the fact that a woman (or maybe a man, sometimes… both) called Vershawn had paid him to store that trunk on the Curse, ignore the plague victims, and to be at the dock that afternoon.

The group, in high dudgeon, returned to the city and scattered to marshal their resources to find Vershawn.

During that time, Garden received an invitation to Lord Vrakavor’s abode in the North Ward, to consult about a security upgrade. Once there and ensconced in the parlor, the man with the face-shaped face appeared and apologized for Geb’s slipperiness. It turned out the face-man was not Lord Vrakavor, though he knew him, and said Vrakavor was out of town. He highly encouraged Garden to do his most expensive security upgrade and put it on Vrakavor’s tab, because he could afford it.

Garden said he’d do so, and later registered it with the Shadow Thieves’ Guild, just in case anyone was working the area. He is a conscientious businessman.

Later, resources pooled, the group had discovered Vershawn was a middleman and a poisoner, a developer of schemes and remover of obstacles. She/he could be found at any number of disreputable taverns in the Dock Ward – The Pickled Eel, the Purple Plum, the Curly Ram, and Crumpet Crom, or the Purloined Purse.

Knowing they were going to have aching heads in the morning, the group decided to go looking, and started in the Pickled Eel. The atmosphere there could be described as cheerfully awful, a nearly continuous bar brawl with several musicians playing over it, with dreadful food and drink. But a coin to the barkeep later, he pointed out their quarry!

The group sidled over, and Garden right next to her (it was definitely a her, but she was androgynous enough to sometimes pass for a man). He yelled, “What is that?!” and pointed with one hand… while the other stabbed her with a sleep-poisoned barb. She slumped unconscious, and the group manhandled their “drunk” friend into the alley. The quickly stripped her of a truly impressive array of poisons (including some that went on mouth darts) and weapons, slapped her awake, and questioned her.

Realizing the group was serious, and not having any particular loyalty, Vershawn said a man she knew as “Dravin Wands” (who matched Father Geb’s description) had hired her to make some contingency plans for him. He was likely to contact her again, and she clearly was not going to scruple to give him up to the group. She accepted the loss of her weapons and poisons with good grace, considering she got to live. As the group had figured out where she brewed her poisons (the sigil on the vials), they knew where they could find her. She promised to contact them, and they let her go, knowing that with her description and the poisons and weapons they’d found, they could set the Watch, the WOMPs (Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors), and at least two different temples on her at any time.
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 27

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had lost Father Geb and were really, very seriously, put out about it. They had several pictures made and copied of Geb’s face, and Jayrin’s face, and put a reward out for information leading to their capture, three hundred for Jayrin, a thousand for Geb.

Several frustrating days went by, but during their weekly meeting at the Empty Grave, one of Shandri’s UPS urchins came to tell them that they had a taker for Jayrin’s poster. Evelyn had decided to join them this time (she had been working on business matters, or so she said, during the whole Geb incident), as she didn’t care for Jayrin either. The fellow they met (on the border of Trade and Dock Wards) was a ratty little guy called Marco.

He explained that Jayrin, or at least someone who looked like him, had a pawn shop, and he was getting the contents packed up to get out of town today. He had five “helpers” with him. When pressed as to how Marco knew about this, Marco said his cousin was working with Jayrin, and that he was a “Little Antler,” a low-level priest of Beshaba. He apparently thought his cousin was a jerk and wasn’t going to lose a wink of sleep if he ended up in jail. The group promised payment if the information panned out, so Marco told them address and said he’d wait a few blocks away. You know, out of the blast radius. He mentioned that Jayrin had an arrangement with the proprietor of the store next door, and a secret door into that shop for an escape route.

The group went to scout the area. The pawn shop was in a line of shops similar to the ones the group had destroyed, er rather, seen when they had confronted Melvin Mask some months prior. That meant that there was no getting directly to the back or front of a building without going around the whole block. Jayrin’s pawn shop was apparently closed, the door locked. The store next door was a used clothing store, bustling with people all seeking bargains.

Figuring to cut off at least one route of escape, Garden spent some gold and convinced a few nearby peddlers to give up their carts. He then had Charissa tow them to block the front door of the pawn shop and broke their axles.

Garden decided to try to climb up to the second story of the pawn shop in the back, sneak in a window, and try to see what was going on inside. The rest of the group would either go in the front of the clothing store and try to get into the storeroom, or linger on the street in case of other developments. Evelyn, her spellscale nature and noble standing disguised by makeup and camouflage dressing, was able to sneak past the draconian (in nature only) storekeeper as Charissa messed about with the bins of clothing, drawing her ire.

In the back, Garden climbed up to the second story on his grappling line, snuck in a window, and found a room that bore the signs of at least five occupants. He heard voices downstairs, and snuck down quietly. He paused partway down the stairs, and could see at least five men (local bully boys from the looks of it) packing crates. Out of his line of sight, he could hear Jayrin, and one other person.

Evelyn, now in the back room, went to look for this secret door. Listening carefully, she could hear voices on the other side of the wall, but couldn’t see how to open the secret panel. Then she heard growls behind her. In the corner, out of notice, two guard dogs had been reclining. Now they were on their feet and growling at her.

Evelyn’s magic was more often geared towards humanoid opponents, and that one at a time. Two large guard dogs would prove to be problematic… Then her hand closed on something in her purse. At the Empty Grave earlier that day, Steven had given her a “gift” from the group’s hunt for Father Geb. It was a jar of pickled eels from the Pickled Eel. Evelyn threw it at the dogs.

What emerged was a horrific stench that resembled the vapors that must linger over the Rotting Flesh Bogs of the Abyss. The dogs whined and retched and howled and pawed at their faces. Evelyn and Princess (her familiar) did much the same, but with more style.

On the other side of the wall, the bully boys turned to look at the hidden door, and flung it open. (The dogs were their alarm.) Garden shot one of the bully boys post-haste, right in the kidney.

Charissa and William and Steven, hearing growling and smashing glass, ran for the back room, William and Shandri hustling the customers out with dire warnings of fire and danger and really anything that would get them to move the heck out of the way. Shandri waited until the last person was out and locked the door so they couldn’t be ambushed or anyone could escape that way.

When the three hit the back room, the stench was… overpowering. Nearly everyone tossed their cookies upon smelling it. Steven thought it was so bad that when he ran into the back room, he just kept running (after swiping at the hound near his sister) and banged straight through the back door to bounce off the alley to try to avoid the smell.

With the door open, the bully boys were also affected by the smell, most of them retching. Garden continued shooting at them even as one came up the stairs to try to kill him, though the man was so sick he had no luck at all, and even less when the stench floated upward and Garden lost his lunch all over the man.

Evelyn, Shandri, Steven, and Charissa could see through to the back of the pawn shop, and at the back were Jayrin and Little Antler. Little Antler managed to hold his lunch, and Jayrin had no sense of smell, so they were some of the few unaffected by the smell. William cast a spell of sleep, downing a couple of the bully boys, and Charissa shot at the guard dogs and bully boys as appropriate as Steven came back and put himself between and danger.

While the bully boys fought, Jayrin and Little Antler attempted to leave through the front door (Jayrin literally picking Little Antler up like a loaf of bread), only to find it blocked by the carts Garden had put there earlier. Little Antler yelled that, so Shandri doubled back so she could cover the front door to the pawn shop. Evelyn, thinking Little Antler might be able to be disarmed, ducked through the fighting and tried to compel Little Antler to give her his holy symbol. His will was strong, however, and one of the bully boys wounded her. Steven made the man into two men for that.

After swords, spells, and bullets had put the rest of the bully boys and dogs down, the others tried to prevent Jayrin and Little Antler from escaping. William shot Little Antler with magic missiles, and Little Antler managed to get off a successful curse from a spell, cursing William with incompetence. In the ensuing melee, with Jayrin attempting to go after Evelyn, Steven killed the man-golem to death, and he dissolved into liquid wax. Little Antler was wounded nearly to death, though Shandri was able to keep him from dying. The group wanted to question him.

Badly.
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 26.5 - Evelyn's Days Off

While the rest of the group was tracking Father Geb through the sewers and a pirate ship, Evelyn was doing something else.

The first part of this was my e-mail to the player about what Evelyn was up to, and the second part is the results of a one-on-one session.

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Evelyn Violette was on a mission of passion, a mission of fashion, and a mission of magicians. Her brother and the rest of her strange, wayward friends were off trying to find Father Geb. Now Geb, being an ambitious bastard of the Wands family, was surely going to try to go after them in high society again at some point. There, Evelyn was likely to hear rumors, and the more highly placed and connected she was, the better she’d be able to help avert disaster, and hence the Wands family would be so very grateful… Really, it was a truly altruistic gesture on her part to further her social connections.

One of the ways to do that was not only tend to her budding fashion house, but to further her magic. That would come in helpful not only in her personal ambitions, but in her physical safety. Specifically she wanted to learn more about dragon magic. Wu Yen, the Wang Lung dragon who was her partner in the silk trade, said she would be willing to have Evelyn as a pupil, and was pleased to see her taking more of her destiny into her own hands.

However, something never comes for nothing, and Wu Yen wanted something other than mere coin for her instruction.

“The knowledge you seek is valuable. For commiserate value I would have something of you. I have letters here, letters which must be delivered with cunning and skill. This one here, to the Dragonmage. He will read it and laugh, but he will indeed read it, and you are one of the few who will see to it that it gets to him. This second must go to the desk of Lady Fashane Eglantaine. It must appear without her notice, or the notice of any of her household, before midnight on the night of her natal party, two days hence. The one must be placed in the hands of Lord Peirgeiron the Paladinson. This last must go to the temple of Auril, to Sister Valpane. How you choose to do these tasks is up to you. You have half a tenday to succeed.”

Lady Fashane you know as a woman of immense wealth, whose family is heavily invested in the Master Order of Shipwrights. Lord Peirgeiron the Paladinson is a paladin of Tyr, and the Open Lord of Waterdeep.

----

Also, there is the important if not world-shaking need to find a factor, someone you can trust to run your business. Madam Silverleaf is unused to exporting her dresses or modifying them for local custom, though she’s certainly not loathe to learn the latter. You’ve been relying on the Origami Clan to disseminate your fashion books, paying them and your artist at the temple of Sune out of your own funds, fielding requests, and all other things. But as your business expands, you’re going to need to keep accurate books, pay taxes, help Madam Silverleaf with materials and the expansion of her shop, advertise, and possibly either renegotiate with the Origami clan for transport costs or find your own caravans. (You know Garden’s people will cheerfully take anything from you they can get. And they’ve been reliable, but they’re not everywhere.)

The Merchant’s Guild could help you with those things for an appropriate fee. They’re expensive, they’d take 25%, but they’re licensed and bonded under the auspices of the Temple of Waukeen. You could simply continue on with the Origami Clan (renegotiating, if you so desire) and see if you could find a factor you could trust amongst them. You could partner up with another merchant or three who already has routes (spreading out caravan costs by banding together) and find a factor on your own by searching at hiring halls or perhaps asking amongst your noble friends.

Or even something else? Ask the Council of Wyrms? Partner up with the Thayans? See if Mom or Dad has any ideas? Build it all from the ground up and start interviewing folks? Asking for advice from the Temple of Waukeen or your merchant pals?

Let me know!

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Evelyn had her packet of letters, and now she had quite a bit to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. She decided to go first to the Master Order of Shipwrights, under the perfectly valid pretense that she wanted to expand her shipping northward. She ended up meeting with one Master Elfont, a master shipwright who had built some of the Eglantaine fleet. He was indeed an elf, and one with extravagantly long ears. Evelyn explained her business and her needs, as well as needing to speak with the Eglantaines about their northern routes. Master Elfont seemed to be intrigued by Evelyn, as she was being quite charming, and said if she would be so kind as to accompany her to Lady Eglantaine’s birthday party as his guest, she would certainly be able to informally speak to the family there.

Modestly, Evelyn accepted.

Then she went to do a bit of research into the church of Auril, the cold goddess, and for that she turned to Shandri, who knew more about religion than her brother. Shandri said Auril’s clergy had sort of neutral relationship with Istishia’s church, purely based on their mutual distain for fire. But beyond that, the dogma of Auril emphasized putting holes in walls and roofs, freezing people to death, never taking the life of an arctic creature unless in greatest need, and getting people to fear the cold goddess.

Of Sister Valpane, Shandri said she was the Frostmaiden this year. While “Frostmaiden” was actually one of Auril’s titles, it was also the title of one of her priests who had taken on her mantle of power during the winter. While not a full avatar, nor the leader of a temple, the Frostmaiden of any temple of Auril was infused with the goddess’ essence and was the conduit through which prayers and offerings were made and either accepted or rejected. Thusly Sister Valpane was not going to be leaving the temple, and the only way to talk to her was to be in the process of making an offering.

Also, she had a brilliant thought when speaking with Madam Silverleaf later that day about a winter gown. Madam Silverleaf didn’t keep enough furs on hand for a typical winter wardrobe for more frigid climes, and they’d have to get special contracts with northern fur merchants to supply enough fur. BUT! Since Evelyn was going to use her northern trade routes as part of her routes to get into the temple of Auril, and they hated arctic animals being killed for their fur, what if she were to only get furs that were obtained bloodlessly? That would require getting fur only from animals killed in self-defense, dire need, or who had died from natural causes. Obviously, fur would have to be an accent in that kind of clothing line, rather than front and center, but it would sound so very noble-minded. A “bloodless” winter wardrobe!

Thusly armed with information, Evelyn got some information from one of the UPS urchins about any broker or merchant who sold exotic animals, particularly those associated with arctic regions. That place turned out to be Zeke’s Magical Menagerie. But, before she went, she needed one more thing. She went to Sucker Street to have a nice conversation with Brother Sallis. She took her footman, Sven, along for protection, and dressed down, but she’d been visiting the good Brother for weeks, valuing his advice and his goddess’ favor. She chatted amicably for a while, gambled and lost, and Brother Sallis invoked Tymora’s blessing for her.

Ready to face the world, she dressed up again, and headed for the Menagerie.

It was run by a sleekly plump halfling who worn two-foot-high platform shoes, of a style used in Kara Tur. He found them useful for walking in snow-covered streets without sinking in over his head. Evelyn was quite interested, and listened attentively, flattering him before she made her request for an exotic arctic pet. (She had her heart set on a puffin, mostly because they were cute.)

Zeke showed her the aquatic white bears of the north, the funny, swimming flightless birds called penguins, snow rabbits, snow fancy rats, ermine, snow foxes, snow leopards, and yes, even puffins. Evelyn asked many questions, mostly trying to determine which one she could keep alive for more than a few hours, and ended up settling for a bright-eyed snow-leopard cub. Though she really, really wanted a puffin. She gave Zeke part of his price then, and the rest in a couple of days when she would go to the temple of Auril.

Then came the fun part of the mission! She went to see the head priest of Mystra, who was utterly delighted to send a message to Maaril the Dragonmage just to get her out of his hair. A while later, she was admitted to the Dragonmage’s presence (while successfully smothering the urge to call his green dragon cohort “Fluffy”).

She chatted amicably with the Dragonmage for a while, or at least as amicable as the irascible Dragonmage ever got, and gave him the letter Wu Yen had wanted him to read. As predicted, he read it and laughed, saying, “Not for all the gold in a dwarven mine.”

One letter discharged, Evelyn had done a pretty good day’s work. She stopped to chat with Hildegard, Maaril’s housekeeper, who was much, much nicer than her master, and who’d kept Evelyn’s footman, Sven, plied with food and drink while they waited.

The next day Evelyn went to the Open Hearings of the Open Lord of Waterdeep, wanting to get the lay of the land before trying to get a letter into the man’s hands. At the Open Hearing held every Fourthday, Lord Peirgeiron the Paladinson would listen to cases brought before him for advice and judgment. It was mostly attended by nobility and those aspiring to be so, but upon occasion one of the lower classes could try to petition the Open Lord for justice they felt they could not bring to the courts.

This day, however, bid to be fair entertaining. Huburt and Sashine Marburt were addressing Lord Peirgeiron about a complicated legal problem with their combined holdings. The two were married, and in their marriage had combined interests in the Shipwrights, Vinters, Scribes, and Blacksmiths’ Guilds. The two were incredibly wealthy, incredibly well-connected, and also possibly the most contentious couple that had ever graced the face of Toril. The two were bickering like children, but with the assets of some of Waterdeep’s Guilds lying in the balance.

Lord Peirgeiron the Paladinson had apparently seen this before, because he eventually cut them off, and in slow, deliberate tones that nevertheless were backed with iron-hard authority, bid them to work together. It was a tone that booked no further argument, and the Marburts were put into the hands of Lord Peirgeiron’s clerks to finish their dispute.

While this amusement was going on (and being avidly watched by many), Evelyn was carefully watching for someone who seemed to know the ropes, who was a regular here, someone who might be able to get her precious letter into the Open Lord’s hands. Her attention landed on a wizened scribe who was attending the Marburts, a man who was simply making certain gestures to Lord Peirgeiron’s scribes, holding entire silent conversations about the content of complicated contracts while the Marburts continued to argue loudly. He sort of reminded Evelyn of Molly.

She approached him when the Marburts had wound down to quiet bickering between each other, explaining that she’d noticed his competence and needed a man of his talents and experience. She explained she was looking for a business factor, and also she had the tiny, needful task of delivering a letter to the Open Lord.

The scribe, who introduced himself as Master Wren, was a former Master Scribe who was working for the Marburts in his retirement. However, he knew who Evelyn was (she was one of four spellscales in the city, and an attention-seeking one to boot), and knew her star was rising. He was cautiously interested, if she could offer him better terms than the Marburts. His apprentice could certainly fulfill all his duties, and Master Wren would certainly prefer a less contentious position.

When Evelyn asked if he would be willing to deliver a letter to Lord Peirgeiron, Master Wren said he might. Then he quickly wrote up a contract with special, enchanted ink, and pointed out that she must swear, and sign, that the letter contained no poison, no magic, no curses, no blackmail or threats to the Open Lord, anyone of his people, or the city. If she would swear to that, he would deliver the letter. Evelyn excused herself to go to a corner and open the letter (she hadn’t read any of them), and found it was a request from Wu Yen about dragons approaching the Open Lord directly about entrance into the city, instead of relying on the whims and effectively, extortion, of the Dragonmage to allow them entry.

The letter had no aura of magic, and didn’t make Evelyn catch on fire or fall dead upon reading it, so she counted it safe. She signed the contract, gave Master Wren some compensation for his efforts, and saw him put the letter in with the Marburts’ contracts, and then into Lord Peirgeiron’s hands. Evelyn actually saw him take the letter, peruse it, and then put it in his pocket.

Second letter, delivered!

Tonight was the night of the Eglantaine party, and Evelyn purchased a fine shawl for the Lady Eglantaine before Master Elfont picked her up for the gala. The party was an elegant affair, and after Master Elfont had taken a couple turns with her on the dance floor, was content to point out the Lady’s youngest daughter, the mage Sasha Eglantaine, who handled much of the family’s finances and contracts. (If Lord Eglantaine was the CEO, then Sasha was the CFO.) She chatted with Sasha for a while, and struck up a tentative agreement to extend her northern routes of the fashion business through the Eglantaine shipping lines.

That done, she had a brief conversation with the Lady Eglantaine, presenting her gift (as well as some juicy gossip about the Marburts), before casually drifting over to the roped-off areas to the private parts of the family manor. After ducking into the ladies’ room and using magic to disguise herself as an elegant but clearly human noblewoman, Evelyn tried to magically charm one of the pageboys left to direct the guests that Lady Eglantaine needed her to get something from her office. Annoyingly, the boy had a strong will and resisted her magic, but Evelyn switched tactics.

Instead she said, with as much sincerity as she could muster, that Lady Eglantaine had sent her to get a “special lady’s potion” from her study. The boy believed her, and turned beet red. He quickly guided her to the study and stood in the doorway staring at his shoes while Evelyn entered. She wanted to casually slip the letter onto Lady Eglantaine’s desk while palming another innocuous object and magically making it look like the apocryphal potion she’d been sent to get. However, she nearly fumbled the switch.

Just at that moment, she saw a small gold coin she hadn’t noticed before on the desk blotter – the gold coin of Tymora, goddess of luck. The pageboy turned out to be looking down at his shoes as she made the exchange, and she walked out of the office with the “special lady’s potion” in her hand and the letter on the desk with no one else the wiser. She went to “powder her nose,” ditched the illuioned object, and her own disguise, and rejoined the party as herself.

The third letter had been delivered!

The next day, she dressed quite warmly in Madame Silverleaf’s new “bloodless” winter gown, paid Zeke the balance for her snow leopard cub and all his accoutrements, and headed off to the temple of Auril. It was atop a wind-swept promontory, with holes in the walls and roof to let the bitter wind blow through, and ice covering everything.

Evelyn went to explain to a priestess that she was there because she had a fashion house. That was enough to get a raised eyebrow, because that was definitely not how most conversations started in Auril’s temples. She went on to explain about her new interests in Silvermoon, the Gem of the North, and her desire for “bloodless” fur of the beautiful artic animals, and how she’d come with an offering to secure Auril’s favor for her shipping to arrive safely to the cold harbor.

The priestess judged Evelyn sincere, and took her to the inner sanctum to make her offering. This room was even colder, and atop a dais, on a throne made of ice, was a woman with white skin, pale hair, and icy blue eyes, wearing attire more suited for summer than winter, as it showed a great deal of pale white skin. When The Frostmaiden spoke, her voice was breathy as the winter wind.

Evelyn was tasked to pray for the favor of the cold goddess, and was pressed to her knees on the icy floor, her glove taken off, and a piece of ice as big as her hand pressed into her palm. She had to pray until the ice melted before Auril would hear her. Evelyn prayed quite hard that the ice would melt as soon as possible!

With the last freezing drop had fallen from her palm, the priestess let Evelyn walk up to the dais to both give the snow leopard cub to the Frostmaiden, and deliver her letter. The Frostmaiden clutched the little leopard close, and it looked quite startled, possibly verging on terrified. But she took the letter, and nodded at Evelyn. Figuring she’d done all she’d been sent to do, Evelyn left in search of something way the hell warmer.

The fourth letter delivered, she returned to Wu Yen, who was sharing Karaxmegathron’s (the white dragon) meeting room with Jukuminno, the red dragon who’d taken on the form of a dwarf. Wu Yen was interested to hear the reaction of the Dragon Mage, and Jukuminno said, “’Not for the all the gold in a dwarven mine?’ Ha, good thing I know more than one dwarf.”

While Jukuminno lapsed into writing things down and muttering rather unpleasant things, Wu Yen took it upon herself to give Evelyn her first lessons in dragon magic…
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 28

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they were going to interrogate Little Antler, the young priest of Beshaba who had been working with Jayrin (or the wax golem equivalent thereof). While William and Charissa went slowly looking for the Watch, the rest of the group bound up the surviving bullyboys and Little Antler. Before they’d left, William had loaned Evelyn (their questioner) his chalice of truth, while Charissa had loaned Shandri Grapes of Wrath.

Garden went out of range of the chalice’s truth aura to go loot the upstairs room of excess coin and goods, and Princess was likewise banished because Evelyn didn’t want to hear any backtalk about her wardrobe color choices. Evelyn drunk from the chalice (which would affect all in the aura) while Shandri gave Little Antler a tap from the drunken end of Grapes of Wrath. If the man managed to resist one effect, maybe he wouldn’t be able to resist both.

Shandri finally healed Little Antler enough to wake him up. Evelyn began to question him, and it became clear that though he wasn’t under the compulsion to tell the truth, he was definitely drunk. Evelyn successfully charmed him with her magic, and he became much more cooperative. While he wasn’t naming names and giving fine details, he was still telling them quite a lot. The batch of goods (and stolen children) Jayrin and he had been packing were going to Skullport, the dark undertown of Waterdeep, ruled by vampires, or so it was said. The crates were to be taken to a bar called the Monster’s Head (reportedly the worst bar in Waterdeep) and from there to an ogre magi who’d take charge of them. Thrallkor the Thrall-keeper was the moniker Little Antler knew him by, and he would pay handsomely for what Jayrin was selling.

The money, Little Antler said, was for getting letters of reference. He also mentioned something about a master at the temple of Beshaba in Skullport, and that bearding that man in his lair might win enough respect to converse with him.

Information gathered, and the Watch arrived, the group let the law take Little Antler and the bullyboys into custody, after carefully spinning out an entirely plausible-sounding story about how this whole mess had happened in the first place. (It involved them being just conscientious citizens who investigated after hearing an awful din/smelling an awful smell.)

The group lingered as the authorities gathered the contents of the crates (for which they’d probably end up getting a finder’s fee), and tending to the sleeping children. Clerics of Lathander (god of dawn and youth) and Chauntea (Earthmother goddess) were summoned to help with the children. (One of Chauntea’s faithful was summoned because of their nurturing nature – though the temple is on the outskirts of Waterdeep, her priests are also known to tend to young animals and children as well as crops.) The priestess of Chauntea bent a warning in the group’s ears upon hearing the potential fate of the children. She said that trying to take on Skullport directly could gain them more trouble than would be necessary, and could harm more than they would save. She counseled caution.

William then went with Charissa to the temple of Tymora to be free of the curse of incompetence Little Antler had hit him with during their fight. He gambled his tithings, lost spectacularly, and was blessed by Tymora’s faithful for taking a chance. (In other words, losing your fee at the gambling tables that dot Tymora’s temple is a way to invoke her favor.)

Meanwhile, Eveyln and Steven had gone to the Temple of Mystra to speak to someone about this latest abuse of magic (as was Steven’s duty as a paladin and Evelyn’s duty as a gossip). While this was not a matter for the High Priest, since every other time they’d come to the temple Steven had had something of dire import to say, which often left the High Priest in quite a mood, most of the acolytes scattered upon seeing the Violettes rather than face being the messenger. Only one young man hadn’t moved fast enough, and whimpering in fear, conducted them to the High Priest, ignoring Steve’s vague protests that this really wasn’t a matter for-.

The High Priest welcomed them with a raised cynical eyebrow, and pulled out a goblet and a bottle of wine. For himself. He also opened the conversation with a comment that he’d asked Lady Amarenth, a priestess at Selûne’s temple, to do a horoscope to see what bad star the two had been born under. Apparently the chart had burned through in places. Then the High Priest waved at them to carry on with their explanation.

What ensued during that interview was a comical farce of Evelyn explaining the stolen children and the Monster’s Head and whatnot, Steven trying to explain while Evelyn kept talking over him, and the High Priest heavily fortifying his wine as he listened.

When the story wound to a close, the High Priest said he would speak with his counterpart at the Temple of Tymora, for it sounded like Tymora’s sister had started to move too forcefully in the city. Also, there needed to be an investigation launched into other missing children, for it seemed Jayrin had considered them to be disposable assets, and if he was using magic to do it, the ogre magi could not be his only customer.

On the subject of Skullport, he was grave. “There are many powerful magicians, even god-touched chosen here in Waterdeep, but to attack one great evil in force could spark a war that could claim the lives of thousands. Should you choose to tread, tread carefully. You’ve already been marked.”

The group went later to the Empty Grave to share what they knew. They talked amongst each other, coming to the conclusion that they would at least investigate the Monster’s Head. (Garden was adamant about not going into Skullport – vampires gave him the screaming heebie-jeebies.) Also, if Geb and company were seeking letters of recommendation, he might be trying to place someone in a noble household. His first big attempt at ruining the Wands family (the amber ooze poisoned wine) had come from blackmailing and subverting people already in place. He could be trying to place his own loyal agents for another strike. The group agreed to go talk to the temple of Siamorphe to see if they could give any insight.

But when the group went to leave, there was a great roar, and fire burst from the fireplace.

“Curses be upon you! Damn you! Burn you!” a hollow voice cried. Several figures of pure flame erupted out into the room, two the size of humans, one twice that size, and a slender fire-figure with wings (a fire fairy). The rest of the patrons took one look and ran out the door screaming, except for the barkeep and two frightened acolytes of Kelemvor who huddled by the bar. The barkeep snapped a tile in his hands, and yelped something into the air about fire. William recognized the tile – it was one given to those who had paid for fire protection from the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors. The fire brigade was on its way.

Evelyn kept using her magic to hamper the fire elementals from moving, while Garden tried to skewer some of them with his crossbow and rapier alike, though they were tough to hurt (no kidneys to slice). Charissa, Steven, and Shadri waded into the fray, getting attacked and burned even as they slowly wore them down. William tossed his magic about, but a little fire elemental kept slamming into him, nearly killing him. They managed to kill one of the little ones, but William collapsed from his burns nevertheless. Garden ran to William’s side and poured a healing potion down his throat.

The fire fairy had been invoking enchantment magic hither and yon, and managed to cloud Charissa’s mind, making her confused. In trying to shoot the fire fairy, she instead shot Shandri in the back. Wincing in pain, Shandri, thinking it was nothing more than a missed shot in the chaos of battle, admonished her to shoot the enemies. Steven had been steadily slicing away at the large fire elemental and fire fairy both. The fairy, very wounded, fled back where she had come and did not trouble them again.

The fire elemental, who had been hurt more than enough, roared as grabbed Shandri (as she was wearing her holy symbol of Isishia, King of Water Elementals). It grappled her and drug her to the ground, burning her. Garden ducked out in time to see the WoMPs were on their way, water elementals romping at their sides.

The fire elemental had Shandri pinned, and it was clear she couldn’t last long. Charissa shot it again, luckily hitting the elemental and not Shandri. Steven put everything he hand into putting the monster down, including sacrificing some of his own strength, and thrust Excordius (his sword) into the elemental to make an end of it. The elemental twisted at the last second and Steven’s sword went right through Shandri, killing her before wounding the elemental. William flung the nigh-last of his magic missiles at it, his magic roused by his cousin’s death, and dealt the death-blow to the elemental. It was there at the end that the WoMPs and their elementals showed up to extinguish the last of the flames, and found a horrible scene.

Steven was horrified at what he’d done, and Charissa was extremely distraught. The WoMPs asked about what had happened, and the group had unexpectedly sympathetic witnesses in the barkeep and two acolytes who had stayed, who knew the group from their bi-weekly meetings over the past six months. They said Shandri’s death had been an accident, the fire elementals had appeared without warning, and the group had done everything they could to prevent damage to the inn or anyone else. The WoMPs, with the witnesses and William’s credentials as an intern, were inclined to believe them.

Steven took Shandri’s body in his arms, intending to take her down to her temple himself, but two dead-cart drives from the Empty Grave said it would be their privilege to take Shandri there themselves in their cart. A small procession started, mostly made up of Shandri’s UPS urchins, as they went to Istishia’s dockside temple.

Steven and the others asked if it were possible to raise Shandri, as she was their friend (and family in William’s case) and she’d been taken so soon. As Shandri had been killed by a servant of Kossuth, and had been doing much good for the temple, the High Priestess said they would bring her back. But the group would have to do a quest for Istishia to balance the scales. They agreed readily, and Shandri was placed in an immersed altar, in a space that was filled to a depth of several feet with holy water.

The ritual commenced, and the holy water boiled away as Shandri took the water into herself, her spirit deciding to return. With a gasp, Shandri awakened, burn-scarred and bald, but alive. Alive! She would be days in recovering, and still seemed fragile, but she called Steven and Charissa to her and forgave them. “It was not your fault. Really. I know it wasn’t.”

Charissa, however, could not be consoled. This was the first time she’d seen death close up of anyone she knew, and went into a kind of shock. Garden was unexpectedly solicitous, getting her home and into bed, sending his minions to tend to things as he made sure Charissa had her privacy. Eventually, it was suggested that she seek a priest of Ilmater, the god of suffering, who suggested she make an atonement to assuage the guilt in her own heart.

In a somber mood, a debt hanging over all their heads, and a conspiracy still lurking below Waterdeep, the story continues…

--

(Just after this session, I had the following exchange with Charissa's player)

Charissa, you’ve never really considered that someone you know and care for could die. That you were capable of ending a life, you’ve known for a while. The world is a dangerous place, and the clan never made any effort to hide that from you. But somehow that never really translated into Shandri’s death.

Brother Jahain was the man you met at the Temple of Ilmater the Mercyseeker, the face of the Church dedicated to those in need of help for matters of the mind or spirit. You told him you felt guilty because in the heat of the fight, you swore you were shooting an enemy and instead shot Shandri, wounding her so much you felt that she might have survived Steven’s desperate attempt at killing the fire elemental if she hadn’t taken your bullet.

Jahain is perhaps fifteen years your senior, fit, thin, and bald, with an air of great wisdom and experience about him. His hands bear many tiny scars, and he has tiny tattoos, letters in an unfamiliar tongue, inked around his eyes. He listens to you, and bids you to sit before the flame at the altar and simply be, thinking of Shandri and of yourself. He returns a time later, awakening you from your contemplations, and says he has been to speak to Shandri, her superior at the temple, and your brother.

He sits down on the stone floor of the temple, incense wreathing the air around you, and hands you a warm cup of tea as he gives his council.

“The fire creature you faced seemed to be a fey, and they do have skill with magic that can twist the mind.” He smiles gently at your inevitable protest. “Yes, and this may be true, but that does not comfort your heart, I know. I spoke briefly to your brother, and it seems that the warrior who delivered Shandri’s killing blow is doing a great service to her temple and her god to atone for his deed and assuage divine wrath. It is a grand gesture for her church, and a large, dramatic act to balance the scales of Shandri’s death at the hands of servants of Istishia’s sworn eternal enemy.

“But you feel as if you’ve failed as a friend, and as a friend you should atone. Consider this, the central tenant of Shandri’s faith, other than water being superior, is change. Water changes everything in time, and the adherents to Istishia’s faith never stay stagnant. In her youth, Shandri worked on sailing ships, and now works amongst the children of Dock Ward, when she’s not getting into other escapades. Her death will bring another change to what she does. Shandri is bending to her trial like an ebbing wave, though I expect her to crest again, perhaps with anger, perhaps with love.

“As such a change has happened to Shandri, would you change as well to both calm your spirit and share your friend’s trial? Is there some way you could aid her in her quest for her new future and help that this tragedy would not come to pass again?”

Jehain pauses, and places his hands over yours, drawing a red cord around each hand and wrist. It is similar to the symbol of Ilmater, and is a known sign of a penitent or pilgrim.

“While you consider what I have said, perhaps you would do your friend a service and aid with the children she has worked so hard to better their lot in life. They have lived a hard life, but they still have something of their innocence about them.” He grips your hands gently. “It will remind you of yours, and what still resides inside you. If you did not care, if you did not love your friends and the life you lead with them with a fierce passion, you would have fled the Empty Grave and let the fire creatures ravage as they would. Instead you stayed, and tried to make a difference. That caused you suffering, and The Broken God, my patron, understands that better than anyone else in all the world. It seems that you have an enemy that wishes to cause you pain. Let that suffering temper your spirit, child of Gond, as the heat of your forge drives the impurity from iron. You are cared for, loved, and indeed forgiven by your family and friends. Shandri has said she does not blame you.”

Jehain touches the center of your breastbone with a single finger. “The suffering only now resides in you. Do not fear it. Do not let it become a monster to devour you.” He takes your hands again and waits for your answer. He seems content to wait forever.
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 28.5

Charissa had decided to do something, take some action, make a change, to deal with the guilt she felt over Shandri's death. After speaking with Brother Jehain, she has decided it has been more than time enough to face her own past and use that heritage to protect her friends better. Charissa was abandoned at one of the Origami clan houses on Lantan as a baby, with a note that she was to go to Waterdeep someday. And more recently, Charissa has been tapping certain skills and abilities that, combined with a chance word from Evelyn, let her know her past. Somewhere in Charissa's blood is fey ichor. [DM's note, Charissa's player had been taking the Fey Heritage feats from Complete Mage to reflect this.]

And it was that touch of other that would let Charissa face her fear. Brother Jehain introduced her to Goodwife Lamb, a priestess of Chauntea, the goddess of agriculture, the closest Waterdeep had to a nature deity. The Goodwife (a title amongst Chauntea's clergy, equivalent to "Sister") listened to Charissa's unusual request, and took her on a short journey about an hour's walk out of town, in a pristine and untouched-looking little wood, carefully guarded against despoliation. In the midst of that little wood was a deep and quiet pool, frozen now, but would be a still and green place in the summer. There is a small menhir (standing stone) there, marked with the symbol of the waterfall.

"This is one of Eldath's sacred places, the goddess of still waters and peace. For all that there is fire in you, I think Thumara will be the best guide for you on your journey." The Goodwife will bow to a large tree that overhands the menhir, and leaves the clearing. You wait a while in silence, then slowly a figure appears out of the tree, one with the cold, dark wood and crowned with bare branches and ice. For all that, the dryad is beautiful and looks very serene.

She beckons you closer with a twiggy finger, and the dryad reaches out to touch your face.

"See the forge of the sun, the hammer of the wind, and the anvil of the earth?" she asks, her voice the wind in the trees. She points to a tree on the edge of the clearing, who had twisted itself at an impossible angle to reach the sun. "Do you see?" Thumara pulls you down to the snowy ground, her feet one with the roots of her tree, her clothing just thickened bark, enough to obscure details. "The Goodwife spoke true, there is fire in you. You can forge yourself anew, and quench yourself in Eldath's waters. Like the bent tree, you will reveal strength under that no one expects you have." She tilts her head, and the light from the sun focuses through the ice in her crown, making lances of heat on your skin. "Seek for the place within your heart where you dare not have looked before, not for the darkness within, but for the light."

With deft movements, Thumara carefully pulls each of your weapons out and lays them on the ground, until you are disarmed. "The one who bore you meant to leave you in love, and love you have found, have you not? Peace, you think you have lost that, but it lingers still." She leans forward, and places a cold, ice-covered acorn between your lips. You swallow it, and it doesn't seem terribly cold, oddly enough.

"As the tree grows, so shall you, in the strength of your fey blood. I ask only that you remember that peace can be as unexpected and disarming as any surprise attack. That which yields is not always weak."

You feel strange, slightly dizzy, and Thumara helps you to the frozen pool, and lets you see yourself. It is a you you didn't think you'd ever see, with knowledge behind your eyes you don't quite know how to use yet, a face subtly altered, and yet more... personal that you've even been before.

"Remember," Thumara says, and returns to her tree.

[DM's note - Charissa's character decided to take the half-fey template, which we're applying over 2 levels for the +2 LA]
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 29

Session 29

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had pledged themselves to do a task for Istishia’s church to repay them for raising Shandri from the dead. After Shandri had spent some time recovering, she eventually rejoined the group, albeit permanently scarred from the fire that had taken her life. People were very solicitous – Evelyn said she would find waterproof makeup for her, and maybe some lovely scarves or hats to cover her head and lack of hair. Shandri just smiled at that, and introduced her three new friends to the group.

Apparently when Shandri had crossed the Veil between life and death, she had gained some favor with Istishia, and knew she had to follow that favor of being able to life a second time by forwarding water’s business. To that end, she’d opened part of herself to the Elemental Plane of Water, to become an elemental archon. And with that conduit, came three faithful minions, water mephits she called Drip, Drop, and Splash. To say they were obsequious and sycophantic would be wildly understating the case.

After everyone had had a chance to catch up, Shandri superior, Felis Marron, came to them with their task to serve the temple. The group was tasked to go to Pearl Island, once a sacred place of contemplation and consecration. Marron explained that about thirty years ago, there was a great incursion of evil-tempered water creatures, a virtual army, that came out of the harbor and attacked Waterdeep. Istishia’s temple called all their priests to help stem the damage. Nearly at the same time that the priest of Pearl Island had left, the sacred springs there had gone sour for unknown reasons. During the water war, the temple of Istishia had taken many casualties, and hadn’t enough priests to spare to send to Pearl Island. In the past thirty years, all sorts of undesirable types could have tried to stay there, from pirates and smugglers to wayward monsters, and the party was meant to go there and make it right.

The party accepted, and figured their best way of getting to Pearl Island was nothing less than their friends of the Aquatic Order of the Darkening Deeps, and their ship the Dancing Duck. The Order (all three of them) were delighted to help out, though they wouldn’t linger long outside the harbor (that being their job, to keep it safe and all). They gave Garden a summoning charm to call them back when they were ready to go home. Naturally it looked like a small rubber ducky.

Once on the shores of the lush little island, the group found remnants of people having made fires on the beach, some of them as recently as a few weeks ago. There were a few faint paths to the interior, but mostly those people would have made to gather wood or look for food or water. There was, however, a large, clear path, covered with crushed pearlescent shell, and only slightly overgrown, that went straight for the interior of the island. This must have been the way to the temple.

It indeed gave way to a tall temple, sculpted to look like waves, the whole covered with white, pearly shells. Shandri sent her mephits up to take a look around all sides, and eventually the mephits reported that there was a courtyard on the back that had a dark spring and pool. Somewhat comforted in the knowledge that no big ambush was awaiting them out back, the group cautiously went into the interior.

The inside was just as wave-sculpted as the outside, and there was a large pool in the middle of the floor. It was a dark, disturbing murky color, and a quick experiment showed it was caustic with whatever was in it. There were smooth, slimy tracks all over the place, and the remnants of many more, looking like the tracks of large snakes. There was also odd writing on the wall, which Evelyn used magic to allow her to read – “Secarass was here.” There were also, much, much fainter, human footprints headed towards the back rooms, the former priests’ quarters.

Cautiously, the group headed back there, nudging open the priests’ cells and looking inside. (Evelyn had a terrible time conceiving of people living in a room she wouldn’t have even granted to a closet.) Most of the rooms were empty, but nearer the end, they found a couple cells with shackled, emaciated, weak, starving sailors, either unconscious or nearly so. After speaking to them, it was clear they were pirates. Some were from the pirate ship Coneshell, and had been taking goods to their leader in the Golden Hind, stashing them on Pearl Island. But they had been lured by the “human faced snakes,” trapped, and then were being eaten one by one. It seemed, according to Evelyn and William, that the pirates had been subject to some magical enchantment to subdue them so quickly.

A little further investigation of some of the cells found the pirates’ booty, stuffed all the way to the roofs of a couple of the rooms. While they were investigating that, the door at the far end banged open, and an irate water naga tried to snatch Steven, biting to poison him and drag him away. There was a brief, intense fight in the hallway before the naga was slain. Cautiously opening the door, Steven made his way out to the courtyard, only to have a naga slither off the roof and hurl itself on him. Hard on the heels of that, a large mother naga and another of her half-grown offspring rose up from the dark, bitter spring and began to unleash magic against the group.

The mother naga quickly cast mirror image upon herself, while the little naga with her tried to use its powers of suggestion to strike dissention within the group. The high-flying naga was soon killed, and the mirror duplicates were being rapidly destroyed by a mix of magic missiles, bullets, and crossbow bolts. The little naga was able to magically suggest that Garden “go hide,” which wasn’t that great for the naga, as Garden continued to snipe from his hidden position. But soon enough the reason for such a request became clear – a round dozen tiny baby nagas came writhing out of the treasure rooms, their fangs ready to sink into Garden’s flesh. Evelyn stopped them by using a wand she’d picked up in the same treasure rooms, a wand of burning hands.

Shandri’s water mephits, as well as a water elemental she summoned, did a number on both the mirror images as well as the smaller naga. Steven waded into the pool to finally slay the mother naga face-to-face, while the little naga turned invisible and tried to flee. The water elemental and the mephits found it and killed it quite dead. Then with the remaining time the water elemental was there, Shandri had it find the blockage of the spring, which exploded with a great gout of water and shards of sharp shell. The spring quickly began to clear, and Pearl Island was now back in the hands of those who would hold it sacred.

And so, our story continues…
 

Azkorra

Explorer
This SH is just brimming with awesome ideas. Love how you played out Shandri's resurrection (and everything that this involves - from the three mephits to the quest on the forsaken island) and Charissa's feelings of guilt. Looking forward to seeing the group take on the various villains of Skullport!
 

Isida Kep'Tukari

Adventurer
Supporter
Session 30

Azkorra, I'm glad you're liking our Story Hour! Hold on to your butts, because things are going to start to get a little bonkers...

----

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had just freed Pearl Island, a place sacred to Istishia, from a double scourge of evil water nagas and opportunistic pirates. The group had called the Dancing Duck to take a couple of their number back to the harbor to hire a ship to haul back the pirates ill-gotten gains and then clap the miscreats… well, first to a healer’s, and then probably to jail or the gallows. Waterdeep takes a dim view of piracy.

The group was just going to leave some of the found foodstuffs behind for the temple and turn in the rest for a reward, but then started having second thoughts. The whole point of this quest was because they’d wanted to help Shandri, and her temple had some them a huge (and expensive) favor. Evelyn, in a rare and extremely painful spasm of morality, said they shouldn’t keep things, but rather give the money to the rededication of the temple. Most of the group agreed. Garden grumbled, but finally agrees with minimal stock shortage (i.e. he pocked a few gems).

Thusly agreed on the plan, they carried it out, and informed Shandri’s temple, who were very pleased to have Pearl Island back.

The group then went off to their virtuous (or not) rest, with a view to meeting the next afternoon at the Empty Grave. Shandri definitely wanted to show all the people there that she was not dead. However, the next morning something odd happened to everyone. Ravinica told Steven that there was a water elemental in the bathroom. Now, granted that the bathroom was actually a globe of airy water on the Elemental Plane of Water, connected to the house by Ravinica’s planar skill, but she’d specifically shielded the place against intrusions. So… odd. They sent a messenger for Shandri to ask the elemental what it was doing there.

At William’s place, he found a small water elemental in his ablution basin. As William spoke Aquan, it told him, “Hi!” And said its name of Oogogoogoobloop. When asked what it was going in William’s wash basin, it said, “The King said it was safe.” William, knowing a thing or three about water elemental, his studies, and the fact his cousin was a priestess of Istishia, knew that one of the titles of Istishia was The King of Water Elementals.

It also turned out that Evelyn found an elemental in her finger bowl, Garden in his water barrel, and Charissa in her quench water.

None of the elementals seemed hostile, but they weren’t leaving either, and since William and Shandri were the only two who spoke Aquan (Evelyn could use the comprehend languages spell to understand the creature, but couldn’t speak it herself), the UPS urchins and one of Evelyn’s errand boys were kept busy trying to locate one or the other.

It turned out that William went to see the Origamis, where Garden had, by pointing, coaxed the elementals into their own barrel. With William on hand to translate, it seemed these elementals too were told that this place was safe for them against their enemies. Making profit out of necessity, Garden set up a “staircase” of small water barrels so the elementals could play by jumping from barrel to barrel in the manner of a water feature. Hey, at the least it would give the customers something to marvel over, and maybe draw new ones to the area!

Eventually, all ended up at the House of Violette the Younger for a full explanation.

(As well as entirely too much musing as to how the Violettes’ bathroom worked when it was just a big globe of airy water. After far too many poop jokes, Ravinica forebear to point out that there were various currents running through the bathroom to keep all necessary sanitary functions separate and clean. And then politely told everyone to shut up about it and they could go elsewhere if they didn’t want to use it.)

Shandri explained that since the party had been instrumental in restoring a holy place, Istishia (or one of his Lords) had taken some minor notice and marked the group’s homes as hydraulic safe houses. Bemused, the group just went with it for now.

They met later at the Empty Grave, where the party was hailed as minor heroes and Shandri received a special token that admitted her into the exclusive club of the Twice-Lived. She accepted it somberly.

After a bit of catching-up, the group wound back around to what they were going to do before the fire elemental attack – namely go to the Temple of Siamorphe (the goddess of nobility) to check their Open Archives about the Wands family for any information about Father Geb. Everyone spruced themselves up and headed off. The temple was incredibly extravagant and rich, even compared to the temple of Waukeen, the goddess of trade and wealth.

A quick look around at the clergy inside made it clear that even the acolytes were very highly bred. They were met by one, a young woman with impeccable manners, who greeted, “Lady Violette, Sir Violette,” and asked how the temple could serve them. The rest of the group was indicated to be various retainers – William a scholar and scribe, Shandri an advisor, and the Origamis as business consultants. (Garden’s long-standing policy of throwing all fame and/or publicity from the group’s exploits on the Violettes in general and Evelyn in specific made him appear to be quite properly in his place, overlooked, which was how it liked it.)

The group (or rather, Evelyn), paid a steep fee to view the Open Archives (the Closed Archives required not only an outrageous fee but a letter of intent, written permission, and several escorts). The Open Archives, which held family history and genealogies, was utterly spotless, brightly lit, extensively cross-indexed, and comprehensively organized. William just stood and stared in appreciation for a while.

With assistance from the knowledgeable attendants, the group began to collect information. In addition to what they could get on the Wands, Evelyn also got information on several families she was looking into for business purposes.

But the Wands family history… upon reading, it became clear how Father Geb had survived the group’s attack on him at the warehouse. Due to a mishap with an artifact by a family member about a generation back, any blood member of the Wands family, if outside the magical protections of the family estate, can suffer periodic but random attacks by spontaneously-appearing creatures of the Far Realm. For the church of Beshaba, a man like Geb, a bastard with a blood-curse to boot, exemplifies Beshaba’s tenants.

Sobered, and plotting careful revenge, the group left to pursue their second line of inquiry into Geb – which would be speaking to his superior at the temple of Beshaba in Skullport.

Everyone started out by swinging by the Temple of Tymora for some properly worshipful gambling, because they had much need for the luck goddess’ favor. Then, well. The only point where they felt they could enter Skullport “safely” was the Monster’s Head tavern.

One can get into Skullport through certain sea caves if one is a smuggler or a pirate, which the group was not and did not want to try to bribe or impersonate, at least not this time. One could reach it, it was said, through certain levels of Undermountain, to which the group, knowing those levels were ones used for city “exiles” (i.e. executions) also did not care to traverse. If one were powerful enough or knowledgeable enough, there were probably magical portals or more temporary powerful teleportation magic, but the group didn’t have access to those right now.

Which left the Monster’s Head. If one were willing to pay for a guide, it might be possible to do some business in Skullport, provided one was respectful to the denizens of Skullport, was prepared to defend themselves, and had hired a guide that wouldn’t betray them. Steven and Evelyn went to seek advice from the one person in Waterdeep they knew who might know someone in Skullport – Jukuminno, the red dragon in the Waterdeep Council of Wyrms.

He was irritated to receive them, but that seemed to be his default mood. He was amused that they were going into Skullport, and offered to eat anyone who killed them. He did recommend a couple of possible guides, a pair of ogre brothers for one, and a troll for the other. A bit disturbed, they thanked him and left to go garb themselves in something appropriate.

According to what the group knew, they needed to look too prosperous to be an easy meal, not so prosperous as to be worth robbing, killing, or being held for ransom, not so flashy as to draw too much attention, and to look competent enough to defend themselves without looking like they were going to challenge anyone. With the others were contemplating their fashion and weapons’ choices (and in the case of the Violettes, disguising themselves), Garden had disguised himself in his persona of “Old Granther,” an older one-eyed gnome with a few fingers missing on one hand, a grizzled veteran of… something dangerous, that was for sure. (This was his persona when he worked at the Marilith, the exotic weapons’ shop). He then went to the Monster’s Head alone to hunt for a guide. With careful gruff questioning, he was able to find someone suitable when the others finally arrived.

Now, the Pickled Eel tavern, which was not too far away from the Monster’s Head, could be described as cheerfully awful, with its constant brawling, horrible food and strong liquor that could take the roof off of a dragon’s mouth. But for all that it had a bizarre air of everyone having a good time. The Monster’s Head was just awful. It was down several stone steps to an overlarge door in a very sturdy stone building, and over the lintel was nailed a large, unsightly head of some unknown monstrosity, still fresh and dripping. It was said to change every few days.

The group had been warned, in the strongest possible terms, to never order the “Monster Head Stew.”

Inside the very large door was a vast and shadowy room, lit only by a few torches shedding blue light. The tables and benches were all very large and made of stone. The clientele was colorful, with dangerous-looking humans, halflings, half-orcs, and half-elves mingling with gray-skinned duegar, ogres, trolls, at least one minotaur, and a masked, hooded woman whom everyone avoided. Some people here were in chains, others with the glassy-eyed stare of one under some kind of sway (magical or otherwise). At one table sat a grizzled gnome of Charissa’s, indeed everyone’s acquaintance, and with him were four drow women in dark leathers, bearing daggers, short swords, hand-crossbows, and probably some extremely familiar vials (i.e. the drow sleep poison Garden favored). Old Granther waved the group over.

Delia Faith and her three sisters were the ones he’d picked to guide them down to, and through, Skullport. They wore the holy symbol of Elestraee (the goddess of good drow), which put most of the party at ease. A round of drinks was had by all (luckily taken from the barrels marked with a human head, rather than the ones marked with a troll face) and the beer and wine was unexpectedly good. Not just good for this part of town, but only comparable to wine Evelyn had gotten at some of her fanciest parties. Not entirely surprising, as Skullport was known for smuggling.

After the toast was done, the Faith sisters led the group through a beaded archway through the back and down, down, down a very dimly lit stone spiral. Peculiar echoes bounced off the walls, and the air was fetid and damp. They kept close to the wall, and the Faith sisters warned them to press themselves against the wall several times, and avert their eyes from people traveling in the opposite directions. After that rather nerve-wracking walk, they finally leveled out in a vast underground cavern, bordering a sea cave on one side, a vast marketplace stretching out before them, ripe with the sounds and smells and sights of danger.

Skullport.
 

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