Family Matters - Forgotten Realms Waterdeep Campaign

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! :)
 

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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.

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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.

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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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