Melaria was born the younger of two sisters to the medusa Leuénza, a fact her elder sister Virpia (eldest by no more than a few hours) never let her forget. They were medusa of the Stheno race, specifically Clan Kymigian, and though her sister had the black and purple colorings of her mother, Melaria was born albino, a crime Leuénza never forgave her for. Like many of the hundreds of medusa of Blackspire, Leuenza had inherited her vast fortune and they lived a comfortable life in a nice home in the gated Vider’Ran District, including employing a few grimlock guards (a grey, orc-like subterranean race that are born blind) as well as a handful of specially trained blind slaves. Their life was mostly quiet, though Leuénza would occasionally decorate their lawn with new statutes of those thieves brave or foolish enough to attempt to steal from their home. Though Melaria was still a lady of the house, it was clear she was the least of the three medusa living there, and constantly found herself overshadowed by her sister’s whims, and her mother’s indulgence of them. She was treated as an embarrassment to the family and rarely ever taken to events of the Gorgonate.
Medusas divide themselves into three different races, the Medusae, the Stheno, and the Eurayle, and each race is divided into two main clans. Collectively they are called the Gorgonate, which really is more of a medusa social club than anything overtly political, though their greatest member Megali, not only represents the Gorgonate interests in the Curiate Assembly of the Concillium Magus (the Blackspirian Ruling Council) she also serves as the Tribune of Plebs, and speaks for the collective Curiate when they meet at the Council of Order… a vast honor.
Maedar (male medusa) are rare (less than 1 in 10 medusa are born male) and as such they tend to live the lives of courtesans/gigolos, and only mate with medusas who can pay their exorbitant fees, regardless of their clan. Only in the rarest of cases will a maedar mate for life (oddly enough, typically for love). Due to the high demand of male companions (and low conception rate among females), most medusa have the opportunity to lay only one clutch of eggs in a lifetime.
Medusae – the most common of the three races, their petrified victims resemble dark grey or black basalt (volcanic rock).
- Saxum – typically have snakes like asps or pit vipers, which usually have green coloring, though variations aren’t uncommon (over 50% of all medusa are Saxum, including Megali).
- Lapisium – snakes like cobras, with ears like a hood that connects with the neck/shoulders. They have scaly skin and a reptilian appearance.
Stheno – the most warlike of the three races (renowned for their skill at archery), their petrified victims resemble various shades (typically light grey or brown) of granite (metamorphic rock).
- Kymygian – typically have snakes like boas or pythons, but otherwise colorings vary widely.
- Ostuphius – snakes like rattlesnakes, complete with rattling earlobes. Skin tone resembles their snake colorings.
Eurayle – considered the “oracles” of the medusa races, petrified victims resemble white or tan sandstone (sedimentary rock).
- Gemmati – typically have numerous small snakes (like coral or green snakes) though colorings vary widely.
- Anguisate – hideous even by medusa standards of beauty, they sport a snake-like body in place of legs
Medusa begin developing their venomous bite and petrifying gaze at the onset of puberty, and though Virpia’s gaze created the unusual dark grey granite statues like their mother, Melaria’s gaze had the bizarre quirk of turning victims into a beautiful white marble (sometimes chased with golden veins). That was the final straw, and it wasn’t long after that Leuénza essentially disowned Melaria, sending her into the streets of Blackspire with little more than a purse of crowns, and a warning never to return. New to life outside the Vider’Ran District, Melaria eventually had to settle on living in a filthy boarding house in the vicinity of Grumchucker’s Square, the center of mercenary business for the city (as well as its pit fighting circuits).
Blackspire is a tough city to get along in on one’s own, particularly for a young girl, and she was forced to learn other methods to survive once the money eventually ran out. She began a roguish career (having a particular talent for lockpicking and trap disarming) but had bigger dreams of building her own mercenary company like many of the other guildhouses of the Square, and of the unique calling cards she would one day leave for her eclectic employers’ enemies. Though her powers were certainly a defense against those who would mean her harm, due to the unique nature of her appearance and petrifying abilities, it left her very vulnerable to those who would seek retribution for those turned to marble by her gaze. So it was a fortuitous turn of fate that around this time she first met Marv.
Marv was a sewer troll, born and raised beneath the streets of the city, and only recently had come to the surface to make his own way and to search for his father Vram. Though he was by far more intimidating that Melaria could hope to be, in many ways the troll was even more vulnerable to the traps and scams of the unscrupulous citizenry, as he was constantly overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells of the city (like a common yokel). The partnership between the two was a natural fit; Marv would watch her back and Melaria would help the troll get along in the city (“No, Marv don’t eat that/him…etc.”) and to find work. And with Marv at her side, it was only a matter of time before the two were landing much better mercenary gigs than either could have gotten on their own (an arrangement that’s served them both well for a few years now). In addition, Marv wears a bizarrely crafted set of bladed gauntlets made out of the rare metal adamantine (a gift from his mother Urga). This allows Marv to slice through metal or punch through stone, and now Melaria had a handy new way to get rid of the occasional inconvenient statue she has created, as it was a simple task for Marv to pound it to rubble until the victim was unrecognizable.
Though Grumchucker’s Square is dotted with many dozen different chapters of mercenary guilds (each with their own names, symbols, expertise, and reputation), Melaria soon learned 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. It is unwise to wear red in Grumchucker’s Square if one is not a member of the Sellsword’s Fraternity. In the beginning they took work where they could, with the Consortium more often favoring Melaria’s talents, and the Fraternity favoring Marv’s, and over time began developing contacts throughout the Square. Some years ago she heard a rumor that her sister had become some sort of big time artist and had moved into a large home in the Plebian District, but otherwise she has had no word of her family or of the Gorgonate.
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 for most), and those who cannot pay in coin, pay in other ways. Tax Month is a great month for Grumchucker’s Square (though sometimes nerve-wracking for the House captains with sloppy books) 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 she and Marv were a part of, their ranks began to break. In the melee that ensued she was saved by a fellow mercenary from a Lolthian in the crowd who meant to slit her throat from behind. Melaria had not taken the dark elf 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 her squad. She had worked with this woman only once or twice before, and knew her only as Solina Arisando, a pale woman with cherry red hair.
That evening Melaria overhead two half-orc brothers, who were also mercenaries assigned to their squad, discussing what they had heard from a bounty hunter friend they knew. It appeared the NOSFERAT (the Vampire Secret Police) were quietly interested in the whereabouts of any red-haired female vampires, and the two were already discussing what they were going to spend the reward on once they turned Solina in. Melaria found an opportunity, cornered the brothers in an alley, turned them both to stone, and had Marv pound them into gravel. Whether she did this out of gratitude for the vampire saving her life, or for use as blackmail in the future remains to be seen… but her usefulness cannot be understated, so Melaria has seen to it that Solina has worked with herself and Marv on all their jobs since then. Oddly enough, they make a great team and the two women seem to have somewhat similar backgrounds and skill sets (both have Rogue levels). Melaria never learned the identity of her would-be assassin, but she still has his enchanted Assassin’s Dagger (which is clearly of Lolthian design).
Of late Melaria has also become aware of a traveling Lolthian alchemist/chirurgeon selling magical curatives from his zombie-pulled wagon in the Square. Though he’s hardly the first snake-oil salesman to ply his wares to the injured or soon-to-be injured mercenaries of Grumchucker’s, the difference is it seems this dark elf, who goes by the name G’eldatar makes cures that actually work. Needing her own healing on occasion, Melaria was impressed to learn that not only were the rumors about G’eldatar’s abilities as an alchemist and surgeon true, they were wildly underestimated. G’eldatar it seems always needs money to fund his research, and implied in no uncertain terms he was interested in applying his skills in far more lucrative pursuits here in Grumchucker’s Square than just selling elixirs and poultices. The wicked looking Lolthian rapier hanging from G’eldatar’s waist implied the dark elf was far from a simple academician, so when Marv and company retire to The Bloody Coin (the local “faction free” tavern of Grumchucker’s) for libations, G’eldatar is often invited along (there’s no end to the excitement one can have with an alchemist as a drinking companion). 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).
Now dragons are seldom seen in Grumchucker’s Square (outside of Tax Month), and on those odd occasions it is usually the Red Dragons overseeing some high level mercenary agreement (or retribution for a failed one). Even rarer to see Blues or Greens, so needless to say it caused something of a stir when quite recently the blue dragon Stormtooth appeared in the neighborhood, apparently seeking work. The Blues are known to be the financial backbone of the Red Dragon army, so it was a curiosity to Melaria a blue dragon would be seeking employment, and even more so when she learned the Sellsword Fraternity wanted absolutely nothing to do with Stormtooth. Seeing an opportunity to increase her group’s already somewhat formidable reputation exponentially, Melaria boldly approached Stormtooth and, like Marv some years before, offered to see to the dragon’s orientation to life (and work) here in Grumchucker’s. Needless to say, having a blue dragon for a drinking companion now means Melaria and her 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 she was able to afford her enchanted goggles and repeating crossbow in the first place). 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, and to her knowledge never seemed to notice the disappearance of the half-orc brothers.
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.