Marv was born a sewer troll and raised in the tunnels, causeways, and catacombs beneath the city of Blackspire. Growing up, he knew only his mother Urga, who taught him to swim and hunt and fight like a troll, but mostly to avoid people and their fire, warning that they would hunt them down with it if they were ever found. Marv stalked and ate dire cockroaches, rats, and other sewer vermin at first, but later the odd person who wandered too close to their den would end up being shared between mother and son.
After many years, Marv’s mother decided it was time for him to leave the den and make his own way, but before he left she gave him two gifts. The first was a heavy leather mask (like an executioner’s hood) that she told him belonged to his father, and that he left it with her when he left Marv in her belly. The second she recovered from a hiding place under a rock deep in a river of sewage. It was a pair of heavy clawed gauntlets made of a very heavy metal, and inscribed with some funny symbols. Urga told Marv they belonged to her father, and his father before him, and that they would make his claws invincible. Indeed when Marv wears the gauntlets he can slice through metal or punch through stone. Her last piece of advice was that Marv’s father’s name was Vram and that he came from a place called Grumchucker. She then sent him on his way into tunnels he had never explored before and eventually the sewer troll who had only known the subterranean world (and had always sought to avoid contact with other people) suddenly found himself above ground amid the vast and confusing sights, sounds, and smells of the vast city of Blackspire.
Though he had quite a bit of difficulty at first, eventually he was able to find his way to a neighborhood called Grumchucker’s Square, which is where people come to see pit fights or to hire mercenaries. No one seemed to know a troll named Vram, but they were all too eager to try and take advantage of his naïve son. Fortunately for Marv, he met the albino medusa Melaria who offered to help Marv get along in the city and find work, and in return Marv would watch her back, an arrangement that’s endured for a few years now. Sometimes Melaria (whose gaze turns people into white marble statues) needs Marv to smash her victims into unrecognizable chunks of stone, a task for which his gauntlets are only too suited for. Marv has since learned his gauntlets are made out of a rare metal called adamantine, which is why they’re so strong and can cut through anything.
Though Grumchucker’s Square is dotted with many dozen different chapters of mercenary guilds (each with their own names, symbols, expertise, and reputation), Melaria explained that ultimately there were only two different guilds that each chapter owned particular allegiance to, the Mercenary Consortium or the Sellsword’s Fraternity. Though there are crossovers of all disciplines between the two (and houses occasionally switch allegiances as well), for the most part the Consortium deals mostly with security (or counter security) jobs, are on a whole are preferred by the Guilds of Fleshcraft when they engage mercenary help. Their words are “To the Contract” (which is often a phrase invoked to end an argument) and they identify themselves with the symbol of an inverted, jawless skull. The Fraternity on the other hand deals more with “thug” jobs, and on a whole are more often preferred by the military, especially the Red Dragons. Their words are “You Rent Us from the Spire” and they identify themselves by red sashes tied about their weapons, bands around their arms, or generally just wearing the color red. She warned it is unwise to wear red in Grumchucker’s Square if one is not a member of the Sellsword’s Fraternity. In the beginning he and Melaria took what mercenary work where they could, with the Consortium more often favoring Melaria’s talents, and the Fraternity favoring Marv’s, and over time they began developing contacts throughout the Square.
Tax Month comes around once every ten months, and the Black Dragons and their agents go forth and for thirty terrifying days collect from every citizen the taxes due to the city (and then spend the remainder of the year “auditing” large offenders and evaders). It is that month as well the Blacks collect each citizen’s “Life Tax” (ten crowns), and those who cannot pay in coin, pay in other ways. Tax Month is a great month for Grumchucker’s Square since there is steady work for both the Consortium and the Fraternity all month assisting the Blacks. Small riots in the poor sections of the city are not uncommon that month, and extra security is always needed.
This year however, Melaria suffered a misfortune during a riot that broke out in Pickett’s Ward during Tax Month. As a angry mob of humans, orcs, and other lesser creatures slammed into the crowd of mercs they were a part of, their ranks began to break. In the melee that ensued she was saved by a fellow mercenary from a dark elf in the crowd who meant to slit the medusa’s throat from behind. Melaria had not taken him for an opponent among the crowds of Pickett’s Ward until he fell screaming at her feet, cut down from behind by a vampire mercenary in their squad. The two of them had worked with this woman only once or twice before, and knew her only as Solina Arisando, a pale woman with cherry red hair. Later that night Melaria turned two half-orc brothers into stone “as a favor” to Solina, and had Marv happily pound them into gravel and pack them into sacks to sell in Stone Town. And ever since, Melaria has seen to it that Solina has worked with them on all their jobs since then. Melaria never learned the identity of her would-be assassin, but she still has his Lolthian dagger.
Lately Melaria has been inviting a Lolthian alchemist named G’eldatar who makes cures that actually work to drink with them at The Bloody Coin (the local “faction free” tavern of Grumchucker’s), who seems to be interested in making money as a mercenary. Sometimes they are also joined by an entertaining friend of G’eldatar’s, a doppelganger actor turned mercenary named Maelik Kileam, who was apparently something of a minor celebrity in certain circles (at least until a series of unfortunate circumstances led him to leave that career behind), and even more recently by a blue dragon named Stormtooth. Needless to say, having a blue dragon for a drinking companion now means their crew always commands the seat of honor when they visit The Bloody Coin.
Boris Bronzehorn is a member of the Mercenary Consortium with his own guildhouse. The minotaur captain specializes in jobs requiring unique skills or abilities, and as such attracts a wide array of mercenaries from all races and disciplines. Boris has an eye for matching talent to the task at hand, and has provided Melaria, Marv, and Solina with some of the most lucrative work they’ve each done to date (and really is how Melaria was able to afford her enchanted goggles). Since work from him tends to be more high paying, it also tends to be scarcer, and as such Boris doesn’t demand any particular loyalty from those who work for him, though he’s not likely to offer work to anyone too closely tied to the Fraternity either.
Gurthax the Unsmiling is a half-ogre warlord (or “warboss” as they are more commonly called) in the Sellsword’s Fraternity. Gurthax has over a dozen mercenaries in his employ, but always has work for more bruisers, and as such always has work (though more often just for Marv). It was Gurthax they were working for during the riot where Melaria was attacked
Mebbus is a duegar (deep dwarf) stone merchant in the Blackspirian neighborhood aptly called Stone Town. Melaria has an arrangement with Mebbus where he pays her 1 octo (silver) per pound of crushed marble, and in return he forgets where he got it from. Mebbus then turns around and sells it to rich Blackspirians, claiming the gravel was made from the statues of saints and heroes looted from ancient human churches… which they in turn then use to pave their walkways. In the early days when Melaria and Marv were just a few crowns away from choosing between homelessness or starving, Mebbus’s coin could go a long way.