Blackspire Session 1 – Character Creation
Long before we ever thought to record and share our adventures, the Blackspire RPG Campaign began as a new game I’d offered to run for the Baltimore Roleplayers Unite Weekly (B.R.U.W.) pals. I’d run a number of campaigns, both short and long, set in my Blackspire world over the past decade or so before, but this was the first time for any of the B.R.U.W. crew (including my wife) to dip their toes into it, so I needed to start from scratch.
While for many, the first session of any RPG campaign begins when the actual adventure starts, for my games I like our first meeting to be an actual group discussion to not only create the concepts of each of the players’ individual characters, but also to collaborate as a group on how each will fit into the party. I described the basic themes of the game’s setting and laid out a few initial ideas for characters/styles of play/party dynamics as well as a general intro to campaign world. The players decided they wanted to start the game as mid-level and/or monstrous characters that were part of Blackspirian society and desired to advance their stations in life. The initial player character concepts and goals were devised and character backgrounds followed. The initial band of PCs were comprised of the below:
Axxitanis, called “Stormtooth” – a blue dragon who wishes to become a necromancer with the ultimate goal of becoming a dracolich.
Maelik Kileam – a doppleganger bard (with multiple personalities) who would start the game as a semi-famous actor whose various characters act like voices in his head. Most dopplegangers chose a palindrome (like “Xyryx” or “Zoz”) for a name, but Maelik Kileam (MKKM for short) is probably the first doppleganger to give himself both a first and last name.
Marv, son of Vram – a troll barbarian who desires to become a famous gladiator. When describing the campaign world I compared Blackspire somewhat to Sin City, and that was enough… so voila, a troll version of Marv.
Melaria Kymygian – an albino medusa rogue with some steampunk high-tech equipment like a repeating crossbow and gaze-nulifying goggles. She desires to start her own mercenary company, and is the lynch-pin for assembling this particular party.
Solina Arisando – a vampire rogue/ex-paladin and now ex-agent of the vampire secret police (the NOSFERAT). She desires only to never return to her former life.
The background history and origin stories the PCs were written up and sent to each player before the start of the campaign.
Blackspire Session 2 – Convalescence
Blackspire Session 3 – Perpetual Immobility
Wherein our mercenaries continue to plumb the depths of Virpia Hall, and unearth some secrets that might best lie buried…
The PCs discover Virpia’s obsession with petrification went to the extremes. She even had been keeping a coop of cockatrices in the backyard (which are now lose), and a trio of basilisks in one of the guest bedrooms. Her crowning work was a fountain in the backyard, created from the petrified (and altered) bodies of creatures typically immune to petrification (cockatrices, basilisks, gorgons, and crowned with a beholder… ghastly fountains of water spraying forth from its eye-stalks). Of note, that beholder appears to only sport seven eye-stalks, rather than the typical ten of his kind…
They also encounter a group of assassins from the Guild of Silence. After a brief altercation (where a number of assassins were petrified/slain) they reveal they are here on behalf of their vampire master, the Crimson Shadow, and aren’t actually interested in claiming the property. It seems Virpia had come into possession of a powerful magic item called the Black Shroud, and the black dragons had apparently not seized it (hence it must still be hidden on the property somewhere). The parties agree to try to stay out of each others’ way as they continue to search the grounds.
Blackspire Session 4 – Deeper Into Darkness
Wherein our mercenaries assert control over Virpia Hall and the final possessors of the Black Shroud are decided.
After a long series of struggles and puzzles, the PCs ultimately solve the clues of the house (i.e. the word to solve the cryptex they found was “GYGAX”) and gain access to the subterranean lair beneath the fountain.
There they must subdue a number of starving gorgons (one dead one will eventually end up as one of G’eldarar’s zombie servants) and finally gain access to Virpia’s secret vault. There they discover the Black Shroud, which upon inspection they learn functions like a Portable Hole.
Upon emerging, they are ambushed by the surviving assassins: Kaidon J’Zemmel the Lolthian rogue, Ennith the harpy sorcerer, and Mistress Bloodshade the grey elf (half-Lolthian) ninja who attempt to steal the Shroud.
Their fight is interrupted by a mysterious drider archer, flanked by a trio of hags who are also claiming ownership of the Black Shroud…
Blackspire Session 5 – Coven-ant
Wherein our mercenaries must decide what they are willing to part with, and what they are willing to fight for. The lines of battle may often blur as true allies and enemies both remain to be seen. Enter the hags Stryxx, Urgness, and Jecate… with Anjehkarelianscu the deadly drider.
A fatal battle is averted as the mercenaries throw in with the drider and hags, so the assassins skulk off in defeat. The hags claim they were only renting the Black Shroud to Virpia, as she would use it to move her sculptures or deliver them to clients.
Anjehkarenianscu (Anjeh for short) reveals himself to be the “chief constable” of sorts to the Pariah’s Market, a collection of Blackspirian outsiders who eek out a mercantile living down in the depths of the Chasm. The hags have brought a bit of trouble his way lately and he’s looking for them to move along somewhere else.
The hags claim they use the Shroud to move their (broken) mechanical-legged magic hut, and would let the mercenaries renew use of the object if they will let the trio set up their magic shop on the mansion’s grounds next to the street. They would also agree to pay rent in the form of magic items. The PCs agree.
They travel to the Pariah’s Market to assist in moving the magic hut, and there meet Ma’ar Khuur, a Beholder mystic who specializes in magic mushrooms (and divination).
They also seek out an auction house (run by a ghoul named Cuegulo) to facilitate selling off Virpia’s artwork. And Marv discovers the wonders of Gregus’s Forge, a weapon and armor shop run by a fire giant wizard. The giant takes particular interest in the claws Marv inherited from his mother, revealing them to be a special alloy of adamantine and mithril.
Blackspire Session 6 – On the Block
Whereby our mercenaries attempt to sell the art and artistry of Virpia Hall to the denizens of Blackspire by means of the Cuegelo Auction House. Have they cast their net so wide as to only invite trouble?
A number of notable Blackspirian citizens attend the auction at Virpia Hall including:
- Speaker Megali – a powerful medusa senator, interested in Virpia’s legacy as one of the Gorgonate’s next potential Muse of the Arts.
- Hesphitites – a medusa painter (and Virpia’s rival). She and Melaria made fast friends.
- Mortimer Stitchwell – a powerful necromancer within the College and proprietor of the Automatica Anatomicae (more commonly referred to as the “Zombie Museum”). Mortimer confides that the Beholder now crowning the fountain outside is one Count Zarathusa, a former business associate of his.
- Kessindra (von Hriger) Harkadies – a noblewoman from a once quite powerful family of necromancers married into an even more powerful family of war wizards. Her husband Vapho did not attend, but she is an avid collector of Virpia’s work.
- Ix’Peth & Lolthis Icorith – conjoined Lolthian twins who lead the guild faction the Mercenary Consortium (which rivals the Sellsword Fraternity).
- Jhikspar D’Vosh – the “Shakespeare” of the Lolthians (yet still alive centuries later to enjoy her fame). She penned the play “Damon II” which is the titular role that made Maelik Kileam famous.
- The Celebrant – an aboleth (arriving in his levitating mucus-filled tank) who is also the owner of the main gladiatorial arena in Grumchucker’s Square.
A great many items were auctioned off, but the most prized items were saved for the next session.
Blackspire Session 7 – The Shadow that Casts None
In what’s become the social event of the day, our mercenaries must contend with many powerful personalities… and still manage to come out ahead, and profitable. Meanwhile an uninvited guest casts a Shadow across the proceedings.
The auction is unexpectedly “crashed” by none other than the Crimson Shadow himself. The vampire assassin has come to bid on the Black Shroud, which the PCs must insist is not for sale.
As they killed a few of his own men, the Crimson Shadow offers Melaria and Solina a shot at joining the Guild of Silence, and specifically his group: the Order of the Dark Mirror (they specialize in assassinations with a flair for irony or poetic justice). The two PCs agree, and so their first task to prove they can be assassins for him is to chose from among the guests who attended their auction and kill one of them.
Also, G’eldatar vouches for Stormtooth, and so after passing the Admissions testing the blue dragon gains admittance to the College of Necromancy at the rank of Initiate (the first dragon to be admitted in over a century). He also receives a special silver pendant that every member of the College wears, which displays their rank (as well as their right to be on the school grounds).
The necromancers are (generally) unpopular with the Dragon Flights, and seeking undeath is deeply frowned upon by the Church of Tiamat, so Stormtooth has got his work cut out for him…
Blackspire Session 8 – Proving and Improving Value
Their most pressing debts resolved, our mercenaries take their first steps into a larger world…
Melaria and Solina agonize over who among their guests they will chose to assassinate (and still get away with it).
Meanwhile MKKM and Marv “crash” the gladiator fight in Grumchucker’s Square, and with some stellar diplomacy manages to get a beholder noble named Count Agorou to agree that Marv, Son of Vram (the famous gladiator) may fight his pair of manticores (a fight which the troll promptly wins).
Rorco Horntempled, an oni ronin, and the yakuza boss of the Onizuka Gang (who runs the Jade Town neighborhood of Pickett’s Ward) is offended by this egregious breech of protocol. In response Maelik Kileam says Marv will face anyone Rorco chooses to put against him.
Rorco responds he has his own “Son of Vram” – the two-headed troll named “Murt & Glurt”. They fight and Marv deals his half brother(s) a humiliating defeat (fortunately as Murt & Glurt are half ettin/half troll, those grim injuries will regenerate)…
Rorco was less than pleased, however…
Blackspire Session 9 – A Fine Performance
Melaria and Solina finally chose who they will sacrifice to the Guild of Silence. G’eldatar and Stormtooth learn lessons from the College of Necromancy one does not often find in books. Marv’s gladiatorial fame may be more than he can handle. And Maelik Kileam takes in a show…
Melaria and Solina decide they will kill their new friend, the medusa painter Hesphitites for the Guild. The assassination itself however did not go according to plan (read: sloppy), but fortunately the Crimson Shadow and his agents were (secretly) on hand to keep the situation contained. The two Nimblewright golems FOIBLE and FORTE that served as Hesphitite’s bodyguards would likely be “decommissioned” for their failure to protect their charge, so the two newest assassins for the Order of the Dark Mirror agree to “adopt” the free-willed golems if they will keep their part in this debacle a secret. A mutually beneficial arrangement.
Later, the wight necromancer Benjamin Raspbone, G’eldatar’s mentor and one of the most powerful people in the College of Necromancy has a task for the College’s newest recruit. The two of them will be assisting a student of his (currently working on his Magi rank) with a dangerous experiment…
Meanwhile, Jhikspar D’Vosh invites Maelik Kileam to come see the dwarven performance “Nifelheim” at the Grand Opera House with her (by impersonating one of her guards so he can be in her opera box without arousing suspicion). Mid-performance Maelik Kileam witnesses a Lolthian Kavaloshi named Z’zhan Icorith appear in Jhikspar’s box and level a number of veiled threats at the old elf on behalf of Matron-Mother Bahkesial herself, reminding the playwright to keep silent about the things she knows. After the Kavaloshi leaves, Jhikspar (who clearly wanted a witness to that) tells the doppleganger the truth behind the death of Magnari Blackskull, his former benefactor (and destruction of Blackskull Hall) has to do with a secret hidden in the original draft of Damon II. Unfortunately no versions of the draft are in circulation, but Jhikspar gives MKKM info on how to locate a copy in the Library of the College of Necromancy. Unfortunately it’s being kept in the mysterious 13th Wing (the section which is forbidden even to most students of the College).
So in classic fashion, the doppleganger impersonated a beautiful woman, seduced and then drugged a high-ranking student who also had a key to the 13th Wing (Morgan of the infamous House Graithe), impersonated him, snuck into the Library, bluffed his way past the Shadow sentinels, discovered the 13th Wing’s entrance, and finally found his way through the labyrinthine shelves to locate an original first edition of Damon II.
From the book, he learned Prince Damon Drakesmoor II was supposedly slain by five Lolthian assassins of five different Houses, not four (D’Vosh, J’Zemmel, Icorith, and Thathis) as history tells, and that a certain House Vrinn has been wiped from modern memory. Additionally (and perhaps more telling still) the final line “I go to live with golden dragons” means that he certainly did flee to some terrestrial land where metallic dragons still lived in defiance of the Dark Alliance. A land that would later be named Damonhenge in his honor.
MKKM replaced the book where he found it and escaped… not realizing at the time that a certain cursed book on the shelf next to it (Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales) had hitched a ride home with him…
Blackspire Session 10 – A Thunderous Lack of Applause
The denizens of Pickett’s Ward show Marv their appreciation, Benjamin Raspbone finds a way for G’eldatar and Stormtooth to make themselves useful, and Solina and Melaria receive their first “evaluation” from the Crimson Shadow. Meanwhile, Maelik Kileam may now know too much for his own good.
The PCs meet the goblin rogue Ahoo Goodfinder, who works for Daki Goodtooth, also a goblin and an important entrepreneur (read: gangster) who runs part of the Pickett’s Ward neighborhood.
Daki had witnessed Marv’s victory in the pits and throws him a street festival in his honor. The tax-collector Xaxaris had reappeared to begin facilitating things for Virpia Hall’s new owners and so came along for the fun.
During the festivities, who should happen by but Murt & Glurt… He was in this part of town collecting protection money from some of the locals (like the kind hobgoblin widow Mrs. Weatherbee, who made Marv a batch of her famous “Husband Soup”) and stumbled right into the middle of this impromptu street festival… hmmmm…
Naturally the two (or is it three) brothers go at it again right there in the street, but this time the PCs notice one of the half troll’s heads now contains spiked metal jaws made of the same strange alloy as Marv’s claws. G’eldatar hits Marv with an Enlarge spell and Marv pierces Murt & Glurt’s heart with an (equally enlarged) javelin… and then promptly rips the metal jaws out of his brother’s head. Dozens of goblins then descend on Marv’s slain foe, adding to the feast’s larder and ensuring there’s nothing left of Murt & Glurt to regenerate.
Daki could only smile a gold-toothed grin…
Later, in the College of Necromancy, Stormtooth and G’eldatar meet Raspbone’s other protégé, the undead Flayed Man Messelmar who is in the final stages of creating a Dragon Engine: a necromantic war machine made (in this case) from the corpse of a bronze dragon (and filled with bloody regenerating skeletal troops). Raspbone means to sell it to the Red Dragon Army, but first they need to sorta “Frankenstein” the thing to life… hence why they could use a lightning-spewing blue dragon. They return home but will meet Messelmar on the following day and devote as many days to the project as are necessary to complete the operation.
The Crimson Shadow in the meantime sees to some one-on-one personal training with Melaria and Solina. He points out their many errors during the assassination of Hesphatities and they have a mock battle so the two PCs can learn to fight in tandem better.
And Maelik Kileam soon discovers the mysterious copy of Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales in his belongings, and begins to suspect the book has its own eerie intelligence (and potentially cursed nature). He also makes the “mistake” of reading the inscription on the book’s first page.
This book is not for you.
And then perhaps, even more foolishly, he then turned the page to read:
You have been drafted into the Destiny War. It is too late to go back. You have already read these words.
Everyone who was on the grounds at the time becomes subject to the book’s embrace. This includes the PCs, Jaspar, the hags, the Crimson Shadow, and one other yet to be revealed. However, its influence will not actually be felt until much later (see Session 22 – Heads and Tales).
Blackspire Session 11 – Lower Education
Wherein our mercenaries learn the rewards of a friendship with Daki Goldtooth. Meanwhile G’eldatar and Stormtooth earn themselves some extra credit.
Thanks to Daki, Melaria makes contact with a doppleganger forger named Mynodus who works at the Iniquiden (the most notorious brothel in Blackspire). He alters the “serial numbers” on FOIBLE and FORTE (renaming them QUILLION and POMMEL). The agree to defend Virpia Hall so long as they can have the Sickles off so they can attend services at the Cult of the Machine God over in the neighborhood called the Smelt. Agreed!
Additionally, Marv’s fame has exploded overnight, and there is now a regular throng of fans hanging around the gates of the mansion (and leaving him tributes/gifts). Marv’s story is already larger than life, the common rumor now is that Marv ripped a lamp-post out of the street and hurled it at his brother, impaling him through the heart with it. He earns the nickname “Kinkiller” and the lamp-post eventually becomes something of a symbol for Marv.
Solina has some sort of odd vision, or waking dream, where she believes she sees the sunrise for a brief moment on the eastern horizon. Stryxx, the night hag senses her disquiet and does a tarot reading for her. She reveals that soon Solina must decide between three men: one from her youth, one from her past, and one whose path she has only recently crossed. One of these men she will love, one she will serve, and one she will betray… but it will be up to her to chose which is which.
True to form, the Crimson Shadow shows up, and it’s not long after that a love affair between the two begins…
Meanwhile, the necromancers spend all afternoon assisting Messelmar with charging up some sort of lightning-harnessing machine… which unfortunately it seems Stormtooth does a bit too good of a job charging up. When the machine is activated, it creates an enormous bolt of lighting, from out of the sky, which careens down, punching a hole though a number of the College’s sub-basement floors to strike the machine and continues on down into the Dragon Engine. The subsequent thunderclap is near-deafening.
It’s an event the entire city (including the PCs) notice…
And (because this is a D&D game) true to form, the Dragon Engine activates, but the control mechanisms somehow fail, and the creation goes berserk. Messelmar flees to get help, leaving Stormtooth and G’eldatar to work out a way to subdue the monstrosity while it is busy rampaging through the nearby magical storage rooms… and they eventually succeed through no small effort on their part.
A very irate Raspbone arrives on the scene. Naturally some sort of inquiry will need to be held to assess blame in this incident.
Blackspire Session 12 – The Stake of Honor
Wherein our mercenaries decide just how they mean to cross yakuza boss Rorco Horntempled and his Onizuka Gang.
Maelik Kileam suggests that they hit Rorco Horntempled before he has a chance to take revenge for Murt & Glurt. Since Geldatar and Stormtooth are on temporary Suspension from the school they are free to help as the PCs begin asking around about Jade Town probing for Rorco’s weaknesses. They discover the Onizuka Gang controls the neighborhood from the five story Pagoda in the heart of Jade Town, and that aside from a protection racket, Rorco’s two primary businesses are a Gambling Den and Tea/Bath House, all fairly near one another.
Maelik Kileam goes undercover at the Tea House and manages to meet Yuriko, a prisoner/servant of Rorco. The Jade Dragon Emperor has set a bounty on Rorco’s head, and she once tried to collect it. Now the ninja serves as his slave and her Ki Blade is in the hands of Ryukai the weretiger ninja and Mitsuko the werefox bard who run the Tea House.
The PCs are also focused on their larger business. Maelik Kileam manages to get himself a Gladiker’s License (the right to represent gladiators) and Virpia Hall becomes “zoned” also as a Ludus (gladiator training facility) as well as a mercenary guildhouse. Melaria starts to receive intense pressure to decide whether she will ally with the Mercenary Consortium or the Sellsword Fraternity.
G’eldatar also begins a bizarre 50-day long alchemical process of (near) self-mummification on himself that he discovered during his studies. Over the next few weeks he shows definite signs of desiccation as his new herbal diet transforms his internal organs into calcified (yet preserved and functioning) versions of themselves.
Blackspire Session 13 – Waiting for the Thunder
As the dust settles the party prepares to kick up some more as their paths cross with the many gangs of Pickett’s Ward.
Daki also tips them off to a few folks in Jade Town who likely aren’t very big fans of Rorco and may help them. The first tip is about a bizarre little “charity” on the edge of Jade Town run by a crazy old man who takes in the injured, sick, and dying. Apparently Rorco is very interested in this Hospice, and his thugs regularly harass its occupants.
The second tip (which they investigate) concerns the Shirromune family, patriarch of which is Yoshitake, a master sword-smith who was awarded the title of “national treasure” and given the gift of immortality by the Jade Dragon Emperor himself.
The ancient man’s extended family each focus on a different smithing discipline, but the master himself specializes in utilizing the various forms of the extremely rare (and magically attuned) metal called Vril. Two of his prize weapons, an Ignite (fire vril) large-sized greatsword and a Corrocite (acid vril) naginata were both extorted from the Shirromune’s by Rorco… along with kidnapping Reikei, one of the many great-grand daughters of the Shirromune house to serve as one of Rorco’s “wives”. The family would be extremely grateful for the return of any of these three things.
Blackspire Session 14 – Friends With Beneficiaries
Wherein our mercenaries pursue many avenues to locate the chinks in the armor of the Onizuka Gang.
Stormtooth hears by way of his gleeful siblings the Stormsong Sisters that their Twice-Father is none too pleased about his current necromantic vocation. A visit to the bowels of the Bank is paid, and Stormtooth is informed by Zurokúl, called “Clawbolt“ that Stormtooth will (without exception) be in attendance at every service held at the Temple of Tiamat (on the Taks). Stormtooth adjusts his class schedule accordingly.
The PCs also seek out Daki Goldtooth’s rivals who are also vying for control of Pickett’s Ward. One is a half-orc ex-gladiator gangster named Spike. They also meet Forgoth the Mighty (an ice troll) and Gorbo the Magnificent (a goblin rogue) his “main Boyz”. Spike also has an interest in Rorco’s fall, so may agree to work with the PCs.
The other rival is a bastard Pickett nobleman who styles himself Felix IV, and runs the very successful mercenary company the Knights of Pickett’s Ward who “protect” the neighborhood around the tavern they operate out of. The PCs also meet his necromancer advisor Magi Kalazar Harkadies and learn that Felix is also a collector of “sacred relics”… particularly any that are useful in fighting against incorporeal undead. Felix believes the long abandoned, and notoriously haunted Pickett Castle is the key to his control of all of Pickett’s Ward. He and his “knights” have made three separate expeditions to attempt to reclaim his “ancestral” home, but each attempt had to eventually be abandoned. If the PCs were ever interested however, he could likely be talked into making a fourth attempt…
Additionally, the PCs investigate the Hospice, and Solina discovers the “crazy old man” is none other than Tzok Damolay, an ally of hers from when she was still a paladin (and he is still secretly a cleric of the sun god Solaris). It’s been almost 50 years since they have seen each other (he’s almost 70 but, she still doesn’t look a day over 19) and Tzok while thrilled she is alive, is understandably nervous about her new vampiric nature (and that she knows his deadly secret).
The mercenaries decide they don’t really care about his little sun cult (his secret is safe with them) but that doesn’t stop them from hiding all the occupants of the Hospice in the secret temple the mortified Tzok has hidden in his basement (regardless of whether or not those same people were members of his heretical little group or not). Maelik Kileam does get the opportunity to peruse what must be one of the few surviving copies of the Scrolls of Solaris however… good fodder for his research of the character Damon II.
Bystanders out of harm’s way, the PCs decide they will lay an ambush for the next group of Onizuka thugs who regularly come around to cause a ruckus at the Hospice…
Blackspire Session 15 – All Are Welcome… Just Some Are More Welcome Than Others
Wherein our mercenaries must defend The Hospice and those under Tzok Damolay’s care from the vengeance of the Onizuka Gang.
Nearly twenty Onizuka arrive at the hospice, lead by a half-bugbear barbarian named Akana. And she is wielding the Ignite greatsword!
It is a tough fight, but the PCs gain the upper hand… until Akana starts going berserk…
Blackspire Session 16 – Hospicious Luck
The battle is joined.
Akana lays into the PCs, but is ultimately subdued when Solina uses her vampire powers to Dominate the half-bugbear. The rest of the Onizuka are defeated (and thanks to a lucky hit from one of Geldatar’s dwarf zombies) none of them escape to tell the tale. The PCs force Akana to give up her sword (and fancy armor made of amethyst dragon scales).
Now that Akana is suddenly on their side, they have a host of intel about the Onizuka Gang, namely the most influential members besides Rorco (all of whom they will likely have to eliminate) and where they are likely to be.
- Rorco Horntempled – an oni (ogre-mage) ronin (he wields the Corrocite naginata) (Pagoda)
- Ryukai – a weretiger ninja (Tea House)
- Mitsuko – a werefox bard (Tea House)
- Genbei – a gnoll archer (Tea House)
- Budo – an ogre sumo wrestler (Gambling Den)
- Kanzu – a tengu hexblade (Gambling Den)
- Lun-Tai – a dim-witted cyclops bruiser (Pagoda)
- Bishamonten – a half-hill giant samurai, and something of a folk hero in Jade Town. (Pagoda)
- Gem-Lung – a sapphire dragon bound through an ancient pact to the wearer of his cursed belt (which Roco has). (Pagoda)
The PCs decide they are going to launch a simultaneous (fire based) attack on both the Tea House and the Gambling Den, hoping to kill the bosses inside each before Rorco is drawn out of the Pagoda. Marv the sever troll is enlisted to sabotage the bucket and chain on the nearby well to ensure the fires the PCs set nearby can’t be extinguished quickly.
They then cut a deal independently with Daki (who promises mobs of torch-wielding goblins), with Felix (who promises to plant three of his best swords in the Gambling Den prior to the fight), and with Spike (who promises to cut off Rorco’s means of escape).
Oh, it’s on.
Blackspire Session 17 – Big Trouble in Little Jade Town
Maelik Kileam starts things off by murdering and replacing Yuriko. However, he was using Detect Thoughts at the moment of her demise, so the doppleganger ends up acquiring her personality as a new voice in his head. Oh, and in the course of the fight, the paper walls of the building start to catch fire. Battle ensues.
The Gambling Den is hosting a “cock fight” (shocker lizards vs. a cockatrice) at the time which is promptly interrupted by an old fashioned melee. Of note, once the dust clears, Stormtooth will have adopted one of those shocker lizards as his new familiar.
The Gambling Den is set ablaze as well, which unfortunately two of the Knights of Pickett’s Ward, after a valiant, fight perish inside of. Battle is joined on all sides as the common folk flee the mortal danger.
This is an epic battle that stretches on for sessions…
Blackspire Session 18 – House of the Rising Dark
And the man in the back said “everyone attack” and it turned into a Tea Room Blitz…
So Rorco hears the ruckus from the Pagoda, and joins the fight before any of his chief retainers in either the Tea House or Gambling Den have been neutralized. This now includes Lun-Tai, Bishamonten , and eventually the fearsome dragon Gem-Lung. The PCs are now facing the full strength of all the Onizuka “bosses” at once!
And then things get even worse…
Blackspire Session 19 – Streets of Fire, Streets of Blood
History may remember this night as the Battle of Jade Town… how the mercenaries are remembered remains to be seen…
The battle also quickly draws the attention of a nearby Beholder Constable on patrol who seeks to break up the fight. Maelik Kileam impersonates Rorco’s voice and orders the Onizuka to kill the Beholder. This is an incredibly stupid suggestion that the Onizuka know better than to follow, but Lun-Tai it seems was just dumb enough to believe that MKKM was Rorco, and moves to attack the constable.
This forces Rorco to kill the Beholder himself (which he does with a single stroke of his naginata) rather than risk instant disintegration (or what have you)…
Rorco is beyond furious for having his hand forced into attacking a city official.
Blackspire Session 20 – The Final Beatdown
Nana NA na! Nana na na na!
What a fight.
As Daki’s goblins spread complete mayhem, Spike’s Boyz sweep in from nowhere and begin to assault the Pagoda. The PCs are still fighting the Onizuka as they see Spike’s people start making off with a huge array of treasures (and females) looted from inside. By the time the PCs get over there themselves, much of the good stuff is already gone (though the guards inside are all dead, so there’s that).
Genbei, Budo, Ryukai (along with his pet dire tiger), Bishamonten , and finally Rorco were all slain in the battle. After Rorco is slain Gem-Lung loses all incentive to fight and if the PCs will allow him to claim ownership of the magic cursed belt that ensnares him, he’ll make an armistice with them. They’re running on fumes and the dragon is fresh, so they agree.
Marv (who slew Bishamonten almost single-handedly) claims the samurai’s armor and his storied mithril katana. He also rips the huge bronze doors to the audience chamber in the Pagoda off their hinges, and uses them as a headstone when they eventually bury Bishamonten (honorably enough) on the property of Virpia Hall. They take Rorco’s head which along with the 100,000 crown bounty writ they found on Yuriko they hope to collect on (somehow, someday). The other Onizuka they don’t take time to loot and dump their bodies in the Black Shroud (where turns out they will eventually rot), though Maelik Kileam definitely also claims Yuriko’s katana, and discovers while assuming her form he can demonstrate some ki abilities while holding it. And now they possess both Vril weapons to boot!
However, at some point during the battle, both Mitsuko and Kanzu managed to slip away and escape. Kanzu in particular had fled with the biggest strongboxes from the Gambling Den, likely containing thousands in crowns.
Blackspire Session 21 – Amber Alerts
As the dust settles after the Battle of Jade Town, the College of Necromancy awaits to hear what G’eldatar and Stormtooth have to say for themselves…
The PCs skulk away as Jade Town burns and hold up in Virpia Hall. The Onizuka fatally crippled, it is left to Spike, Daki, and Gem-Lung to “restore order” to the neighborhood (separately from each other I might add).
However, G’eldatar and Stormtooth are soon instructed to appear before an inquiry held by the Solve Coagula (the administrative arm of the College of Necromancy). They are summoned to the Amber Chamber, a secret meeting room in one of the upper stories of the Blackskull Arms (the on-campus tavern). Messelmar is just leaving as they are called in, and his expression is less than friendly…
In the chamber they are instructed to stand within a magic circle (which is enchanted to both promote truth-telling and detect falsehoods). Aside from Benjamin Raspbone and Mortimer Stitchwell, there is a whole host of other important necromancers of the College taking part of this inquest, including:
- Mr. Gnemysyst – a powerful wraith responsible for campus Security (and commander of an army of Shadows).
- Vashus Roth – imagine a cross between Bane and an undead Darth Vader. A necromancer and Spire Knight servant of the Cult of the Spire. He is responsible for campus Discipline.
- The Weeper – an undead beholder (and cancer mage). His specialty is on the relatively new discipline of Forensics.
- Grakomel of Nekross – the current Ultima Magi and the ultimate authority (for his century long rule anyway) over all College affairs.
- Blessedly absent is The Dread Emperor (feared by all) and Kviscero, called “Darksoul” the black dragon vampire.
The PCs are informed that “the incident” has attracted much attention. Vashus Roth even implies that the Spire itself had “taken notice” of their lightning strike. The dragon and the alchemist do their best to defend themselves, and fortunately Geldatar makes an intelligent enough argument that it is decided it is Messelmar who bears the ultimate blame in this matter and that he will be immediately expelled from the school.
Vashus Roth decides that G’eldatar and Stormtooth may return to classes so long as they also serve Detention. They will sort through and catalogue all the items damaged during the Dragon Engine’s rampage, and the ones that are damaged beyond repair will need to be disposed of. That second part will be easier said than done…
Stormtooth also learns the name “Vilescale”, a green dragon and the only other member of a Dragon Flight to gain admittance to the College of Necromancy in the last century. He too had been seeking the path of dracolichdom, but mysteriously disappeared a number of years ago.
As the two emerge from the Amber Chamber and make the sullen walk downstairs… the entire ground-floor level of the tavern takes up a cheer when they appear. It seems Suspension from the College is something of a rite of passage for many students, and the two offenders are treated to copious rounds of alcohol (and many inquisitive classmates pestering them about the Dragon Engine affair). Mortimer Stitchwell even buys the boys a round.
Hours later, heads swimming with drink, it’s back to Virpia Hall for some much needed rest…
Blackspire Session 22 – Heads and Tales
Once upon a time…
That evening, those affected by the curse of Mother Gristle Fairy Tales found their consciousnesses swept into the storybook world within that magical tome’s pages.
We used a different storytelling device for the Mother Gristle adventures. Using a combination of Story Dice (to articulate the beats of the plot…previously rolled up last session) and Zombie Dice (to move the events of the story forward) each player had to use a narrative-style description of what happens next to move the story along (and all participants had to ultimately be in agreement). It had its own little system to it, which was pretty fun. If things got slow, Mother Gristle (me) would chime in “from on high” and get things moving again. It’s clear she was looking for a good story above all else…
Within a strange witch’s cave the PCs find they have taken the form of animals trapped in various cages around the room. Melaria has taken the form of a snake named “Meli”, Solina is a bat named “Lena”, Maelik Kileam is the chameleon “Leon”, G’eldatar is a spider called “Vosh”, Stormtooth is the crocodile “Sharptooth”, and Marv ends up being a badger named “Marvin”
The “animals” first needed to work together (using their various “animal powers”) to realize each has the ability to free one other (but not themselves). Eventually they work together so they can all escape the cave and then make their way to the fairy’s circle at the end of Death’s Road.
Once free of their cages they helped themselves to a magic potion that had fallen on the ground before escaping the cave. Once outside, they first encountered a mouse named “Jeepers” (that reminded them of Jaspar) who wanted to cross the nearby river. If they got him across, he could lead them through the pumpkin patch to the Jack ‘o the Wisp, the king of the patch, who would know the way to Death’s Road.
The animals could only fit two at a time on the crocodile’s back, but the main problem was that a reptile and a non-reptile could not be crossing the river on his back at the same time (or their bestial nature’s might take over). It took the players a few minutes to riddle this one out (as each crossing became harder and harder for the crocodile) but eventually they all got across and the mouse, as promised, led them to King Jack ‘o the Wisp.
A living one-eyed Jack-o-lantern with seven prehensile vines each holding a candle, the Jack ‘o the Wisp agreed to lead the animals to Death’s Road, but to get them there they first needed to free him from the confines of his patch. The badger’s claws were not enough to sever the Jack ‘o the Wisp’s roots, until he consumed the witch’s potion which made him strong enough to claw through even the toughest parts. Now freed, a grateful Jack ‘o the Wisp floated along lighting the way before them to Death’s Road. “You will need me” he claimed “so you can see Death coming…”
On the Road they encountered the Dark Prince, a (*ahem*) “crimson-clad” rider astride a shadowy steed who is seeking his betrothed. He is betrothed to Death, it seems, and seeks her among the party. The bat claimed to be who he sought, and they ride off together allowing the others to pass. “The night I finally join with Death…” the Dark Prince declared “the happiest night of our lives…”
Finally at the end of the road, they encounter a trio of faeries (one purple, one pink, and one green) in an eerie stone circle hovering around a strange book, and chanting a warning for any who approach it not to look inside the book’s pages.
“You idiot mercenaries” rings the shrill voice of Stryxx from mouth of the purple fairy, “what the hell have you gotten us all into?! Hurry up and disobey us!”
When the chameleon looks at the pages of the book, he sees there has been written two simple words.
Fade to black.
Blackspire Session 23 – Ledges & Ledgers, Pledges & Pleasures
Dust settles, ash rains down, and new entities appear in Virpia Hall.
Upon waking from their dream (and somehow feeling oddly stronger), many of the PCs learn they are not in their beds, but in fact fell unconscious wherever they were when the dream “started”. The hags seek them out, and Maelik Kileam grudgingly reveals the Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales book that “followed him home” from the necromancer’s Forbidden Library.
“Oh, it’s that edition? exclaimed Jecate “Then we are well and truly fucked!”
Maelik Kileam learns the book will likely demand two more stories from them before seeking out new victims. An irate Crimson Shadow arrives shortly after. It seems he fell unconscious during an important Guild meeting and had to be returned to his coffin by his associates. He is none too pleased to learn of his being roped into this curse, but Solina manages to smooth things over with him.
Jaspar also reveals to the PCs that while yes indeed, he is the last surviving gargoyle from Virpia’s staff, there are a handful of gargoyle eggs still maturing on the building’s roof, and some should start hatching soon. While he has been caring for the eggs as best as he is able, he suggests in time they may need an expanded gargoyle staff to care for and instruct the newborns. As well as serve as security for the house…
Jaspar then also reveals that some very angry folks from Jade Town have been showing up at the gates demanding blood money. Melaria insists an accurate accounting be made of all complaints and ensure the wronged are fairly compensated. This also causes them to finally meet their next door neighbors. The family on their east side is the powerful yet infamous dwarven family House Ironbeard and on the west side is a family of Sphinxes. The patriarch of that family, Professor Hadit seems to be conducting some sort of digging operation in his backyard.
It also seems that recently Kaidon, Ennith, and Mistress Bloodshade have helped themselves to one of the bedrooms in the mansion and the three of them behind closed doors engage in some very bizarre relationship behavior.
As a ninja, Bloodshade is not just an assassin for the Order of the Dark Mirror, but her primary loyalty is actually to the Kogu Shinobi Clan, a separate Order within the Guild of Silence that traces their roots to the Jade Dragon Empire (now called the Shadow Dragon Empire). Rorco Horntempled was a major client of the Kogu, and her masters are none too pleased about his recent removal. Since Melaria and Solina’s altercation with the Oni was deemed “personal” and technically prior to their official induction into the Guild (which was no accident, mind you) the ninjas will not seek revenge, but do ask that they make a gift of the Corrocite naginata as a sign of respect.
They have time to decide, for regardless it is finally time for the ceremony where Melaria and Soliana are to be presented as members of the Order of the Dark Mirror to the leaders and gathered members of all the other assassin Orders of the Guild of Silence. Quite ironic again, as just recently Speaker Megali has enlisted Melaria’s aid in solving the murder of Hesphitites… the same killing that won the albino her spot in the Assassin’s Guild.
In the meantime, Maelik Kileam pays a visit to the Celebrant, and they negotiate Marv’s next fight. He will face the Acirachnid, a bizarre chimera the Aboleth purchased from the breeding pits of the College of Necromancy.
Maelik Kileam also picks up Marv’s “fan mail” and other business offers/open bribes. Among these scrolls he finds a letter to Solina from Tzok, which reveals that he’s fled the Hospice before he can be discovered by the Inquisition, but that if she ever needs to find him, she should ask around for him in “The Hive” (a refugee “village” deep in the bowels of the Blackspirian sewer system).
MKKM also makes a trip to the Street of Dark Symphonies, and there discovers a talented Elven street performer (too good for the street) named Liff. The doppleganger immediately employs him, and the elf’s first task is to start spreading the word about Marv’s next big fight.
Melaria and Solina are ceremoniously introduced to the Guild of Silence and receive a small mechanical roach and similar mechanical butterfly. These can be used to relay messages to the Guild (below or above ground respectively). They are also each given their “broken mirror” emblems that mark them as members of the Order of the Dark Mirror. During the ceremony, they also receive a crash education on the other assassin Orders within the Guild of Silence.
- Order of the Dark Mirror – a motley group specializing in poetic/ironic and elaborate killings. Led by the Crimson Shadow who is in service to one of the Vampire Princes: Countess St. Lovebane.
- Kogu Shinobi Clan – a group of Shadow Dragon Empire expatriates, led by the Tengu ninja Master Blackfeather and the Oni wu-jen (wizard) Omano-o. They specialize in infiltration-based assassinations (ninja-stuff).
- The Order of Fortuitous Death (or the Mors Forte) – a necromancy focused order that specializes in “accidents” and “death by natural causes” as well as the occasional frame job. Foes of the Lifequencher’s Union, they are led by Lord Gymond Blackskull III (Arch-Magi 1st Class of the College of Necromancy) and a mummy named Sackcloth.
- The Lifequencher’s Union – specializing in poisons, they are led by the medusa Last Kiss (who also happens to be the Gorgonate Muse of Natural Sciences). The Union has ties to certain underground reptilian cults that have run afoul of the Church of Tiamat in the past, and there seems to be some ancient bad blood between them and the Mors Forte as well.
- The Black Rain – a group comprised entirely of pure-blooded Lolthians, they specialize in sniper-style killings and ranged “hits”. They are led by a Lolthian known only as Deathshade (even the person’s sex is unknown). Kaidon J’Zemmel also happens to be a (less than stellar) member of this order.
- The Order of the Demonweb Pits – in some ways a subsidiary of the Black Rain, this is an Order comprised entirely of Lolth-cursed Driders and led by a legendary arcane archer named Drix. While they also have many archers, they specialize in missions only half-spider people could accomplish.
- Order of the Hidden Crescent – successors of an ancient cult of assassins from a long-forgotten culture, their drug-fueled members are ready to sacrifice their lives at a moment’s notice to fulfill their master’s orders (ideal for victory-or-death/suicide missions). They are led by a mysterious vampire know only as The Janissary (who purportedly carries a cursed scimitar).
- The Red Caps – a fairly small order comprised mainly of goblins and fey folk (all wearing hats of varying crimson hues), led by Neelie the Unseelie, a half-goblin/half-gnome with a garotte made of unicorn hair. The any-dirty-job-will-do Order.
- The 1000 Eyes – the only Order within the Three Guilds that does not actually carry out the duties of the Guilds (such as assassinations), but instead they ferry information and arrange/award new jobs to the Order/Guild that is most suited (Order leaders can bid on jobs where disciplines may have crossover). The 1000 Eyes are comprised entirely of members of the Cult of the Spire, and are led by the demonic-looking Spire-Knight Archbishop ABBATOIR. Key members also include the half-stone golem Father VISE (who runs the Confessional where contacts are arranged), Lord Ry’ant O’auk a Beholder half-iron golem (Confessional Security), Father DILLIGENCE a half-alchemy golem Illithid (who collates data from the mechanical insect Hive-Mind), and Father CHITON a half-clockwork golem Thri-kreen (mantis man) who creates the mechanical insects the guilds men all use, which besides the roach and butterfly designs also include fly, bee, wasp, and (emergency) lightning-bug models.
- The Eye in the Pyramid – technically also part of the Guilds of Secrets and Justice, this is the investigative arm of the 1000 Eyes, and can be comprised of non-Cult of the Spire members. Purely investigative, they accept contacts on jobs like missing persons, unsolved murders, and other private-eye kind of stuff. Generally unpopular (considered boring) with a sparse membership, its defacto leader is the gun-slinging inquisitor Sir Damien Darkmace.
- The Order of the Red Mantis – the Order that assassinates assassins. Reporting only to the 1000 Eyes, if a member of the Guild of Silence gets out of line, it is the Red Mantis that comes for them. Boasting only a handful of members, they are led by a Thri-kreen named Chixx (the only member present at the ceremony).
They also learn that Countess St. Lovebane, Deathshade, and a dragon named Greentooth (who they don’t see) all seem to have exclusive sway over some of the Orders, and only share partial control over others with each other. Internal rivalry seems rife, but Archbishop ABBATOIR seems to hold everything in balance. They also learn that along with the Guild of Secrets (torturers) and Guild of Justice (executioners) their three guilds make up the Three Guilds of Fleshcraft, and that members of one Guild may also seek out and join Orders in the other two Guilds as well.
They also hear whispers of a secret master who controls all three Guilds from the shadows… known only as HYM.
Additionally they learn the secret sign that any member of any of the Three Guilds who prominently displays the badge(s) of their Order(s) may exercise. Called “The Blind Eye” this signal is made by passing one’s hand vertically in front of the eyes from left to right. If a fellow Guildsman responds in kind, this is an understanding between them that they will not actively enact aggression towards one another, even if they both should find themselves on opposite sides of a battle. This is also an understanding that whenever possible they should attempt to see that such opponents are spared death, and arrange for their surrender, subduing, capture, release, ransom, escape… or other similarly “civil” treatment/professional courtesy. Guildsman who cross one another in matters that could be deemed “personal” however, are under no such obligation to observe The Blind Eye treatment with each other…
They also have the chance to meet a few fellow members of the Order of the Dark Mirror who serve the Crimson Shadow, with varying results.
- Aloiscious Pickett – the snobby current patriarch of the noble Pickett family (and Felix IV’s uncle). He also belongs to the Mors Forte, the Bloody Coudés (Guild of Secrets), as well as keeping to his family’s tradition of belonging to the Carnifextus Guild (Guild of Justice). He has his own large cadre of followers collected from a multitude of Orders.
- Cthaineous – a fearsome wight assassin who was probably quite handsome when he was still alive. He commands his own cadre of ghouls, ghasts, and wights who are ideal for when the Crimson Shadow needs a bunch of things to “go bump in the night”.
- Damien Blackchapel – an ancient vampire who dresses in a dark mockery of the ecclesiastical garb of an inquisitor from some forgotten faith. He came under the Crimson Shadow’s command when his (now defunct) Order called The Mystery Players (specializing in displaying victims in grotesque tableaux) was absorbed by the Dark Mirror. He does not seem to command any underlings and will answer only to the Crimson Shadow.
- Lester the Jester – a mad ghast dressed in a bloody suit of motley. He was once the leader of another (now defunct) Order called The Mad Mummers. Rumors say once Lester (and other key Mummers) became obsessed with a certain mysterious play which apparently drove them all “too mad”. The Crimson Shadow actually removed Lester from his leadership role, and the assimilation of the Mummers into the Dark Mirror was a bit more forceful. The Crimson Shadow still wheels the lunatic out for events like this, but constrained by a straight-jacket, muzzle, and a chained collar about his neck.
- Xyryx – a doppleganger who came over with the Mad Mummers, but proved his usefulness to the Crimson Shadow many times over (there’s no end to the ironic twists possible with a shape-changer). Xyryx believes for a doppleganger to truly understand/become/replace the person he’s duplicating he must first consume his victim’s corpse.
- Naviga Bladeheart – a vampire rogue, and (jealous) ex-lover of the Crimson Shadow (who finds jealousy “unattractive”). Her obedience to the Crimson Shadow seems genuine, but that doesn’t stop her from staring daggers at Solina all night…
From this point on, Melaria starts referring to the band of mercenaries as the White Hydra Mercenary Company, and herself by her new assassin name “Lady Goldenvein”.
And just in time, as it seems Daki and Gem-Lung have temporarily suspended hostilities, and ask that the (newly renamed) White Hydra Hall play host to talks between the various gangs of Pickett’s Ward. The PCs are also enlisted to extend the invitations to the other interested parties (namely Spike and Felix IV).
But before that can happen they are paid a surprise visit by the undead Beholder necromancer known as The Weeper. It seems the Beholders of Pickett’s Ward have engaged his forensic expertise to determine the true culprit in their fellow Beholder’s death during the “Battle of Jade Town”.
The “Death Tyrant” would like access to the murder weapon… as well as Rorco’s head… for questioning..!
Blackspire Session 24 – The Naughty Saga of the Naginata
The Kogu Shinobi Clan, The Weeper, and the Shirromune Family all have their sights set on reclaiming Rorco Horntempled’s Corrocite naginata from the White Hydra mercenaries. The most valuable weapon to have yet crossed their paths and the race is on to be rid of it.
The Weeper is able to confirm that the naginata was indeed the murder weapon, but as it is currently in the possession of the White Hydra mercenaries, he cannot be certain Rorco was the killer. He insists on obtaining Rorco’s head, something they promise they will get for him (fortunately it’s currently stashed in the folds of the Black Shroud). On his way off the grounds he shows particular interest in the hag’s mechanical-legged hut…
Since they failed to rescue Master Shirromune’s grand-daughter from the Pagoda (and it’s unlikely any of the women Spike’s Boyz carried out of there could be considered “rescued” either) they decided there was no real upside to returning the Vril weapons to the Shirromune family.
At Bloodshade’s prompting, the mercenaries pay a visit to the Confessional (the “public” church-like hall of the Guilds of Fleshcraft where Blackspirians draft contracts with the Guilds). There they are met by Master Blackfeather and Omano-o of the Kogu Shinobi Clan, who express their intense displeasure at losing out on their “cash cow” client Rorco Horntempled, and so after some intense negotiation it was decided that the White Hydra would surrender both Vril weapons to the Kogu Shinobi Clan and then stay the hell out of Jade Town…
Fair deal? Who can say…
Blackspire Session 25 – (Don’t Fear) The Weeper
All our times have come
Here but now they’re gone
Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear she couldn’t go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared… saying don’t be afraid
As a cancer mage, the end of The Weeper’s telekinetic eye-stalk actually blisters with a number of different sized (and shaped) eyes, each secreting forth a yellow pus (hence his name). However, this does afford him a good degree better dexterity when manipulating objects with his Telekinesis rays than his fellow “single-rayed” race (making him far less reliant on servants). He also boasts a large repertoire of necromancy spells to aid him in his investigation. He arrives again at White Hydra Hall, and this time will not be satisfied until he has had a chance to “interview” Rorco. The Beholders are expecting his report.
The PCs eventually relent, and The Weeper is allowed to take Rorco’s head into a private room (where he promptly casts Speak With Dead). He emerges some time later and informs the mercenaries in no uncertain terms that while the cyclops Lun-tai struck the first blow, and Rorco the final killing one, it was only White Hydra chicanery that encouraged violence against the Beholder constable in the first place.
The Weeper is going to tell the Beholders of the Pickett’s Ward Barracks these first two pieces of information. Whether or not he includes the third most crucial piece of data (as far as they are concerned) relies solely on the PCs…
In return for his silence, they will each individually owe him a favor, one which he may call upon at any time, and one which they may not refuse.
They don’t refuse.
Wasting no time, The Weeper asks Melaria and/or Solina for his first favor. Certain decorum prevents him from seeking out membership in the Guild of Silence, however… if he were to be invited to join the assassins by someone within the Guild, he could accept. He believes his talents would be of great use to the Mors Forte, plus they have a strong necromantic tradition… hence the sticking point of his pride. Somehow they have to convince the necromancer assassins (who they have no tie to currently) to invite The Weeper into the Guild… swell… they agree to try at least. The rest of the PC’s favors become “IOUs”.
That past, Maelik Kileam suggests that Marv accept one of the many business offers he’s received. The most enticing seemed to be from Sher Kannis, the Rakshasa proprietor of the famous casino The Queen of Blades. The White Hydra all investigate the establishment and are treated to the tiger-man’s outrageously extravagant hospitality. Marv is offered a sweet gig to play games for free, drink on the house, and hang around rich gamblers and talk about his fights.
Poker is popular in Blackspire, though games are actually played using the Lower Arcana cards from the Tarot deck (plus the Magician, who is considered “wild”). They all also learn to play the popular card game: Queen’s Torment.
While at the casino MKKM also runs into Arxix Icorith, an old colleague from his former acting troupe. The Lolthian confides to the doppleganger that he is attempting to accumulate 100,000 crowns in gambling winnings so he can buy an invitation to the most exclusive high stakes game The Queen of Blades hosts… a game where the players gamble with their very lives (perhaps even their souls). Called “Bane or Benefit”, this yearly competition it seems, is played with the legendary Deck of Many Things…
Marv also receives his first (cash) offer for some one-on-one time with a fan, the bugbear merchant Delilah Delight. She owns an arboretum called the Garden of Delight, and has made her fortune off the production and sale of Rulp: a fermented drink made from the rinds and pulp of citrus fruits (which many creatures require to avoid contracting the disease scurvy). Maelik Kileam’s gladiker license does not cover pimping, so Delilah arranges the rendezvous at the Iniquiden.
While Marv is indisposed, “The Character Alchemist” receives an invitation from the Iniquiden’s proprietors to come serve as an amusing diversion for them for an hour or so. There, in the midst of some drug-fueled orgy, Maelik Kileam meets the notorious brothel’s owners, the provocatively dressed (with multiple painful silver piercings) vampire Countess St. Lovebane and with her is the lascivious (and some-what demonic looking) red-skinned man known only as the Sultan of Sin. They quickly run out of ridiculous and embarrassing forms they ask MKKM to take, and so the doppleganger decides to switch to something more serious when they start to grow bored. They quickly dismiss his Damon II act, but things change when he switches to Lustromo and performs his Dirge of Doom. St. Lovebane falls into silent rapt attention (as do the rest of the orgy-goers), but the Sultan grows offended to the point of anger, interrupting the performance and quickly has Maelik Kileam ushered out for “disturbing the vibe”.
He still gets paid though…
Blackspire Session 26 – A Place at the Table
Daki Goldtooth and Gem Lung must decide whether they will carve up Jade Town, or each other… Meanwhile the College of Necromancy welcomes back its newest sons, though how *they* will be divided remains to be seen…
Not only have G’eldatar and Stormtooth been welcomed back into the College of Necromancy, they each have advanced to the next Rank within the school. Stormtooth is now a Novice and G’eldatar is now a Collegiate (meaning the time has come for him to declare a Philosophy). He’ll have some homework to do…
The ceremony takes place during one of the gatherings (on the Skulls) of the school body in the Great Hall of the College where they all share a weekly meal (or the undead equivalent) and conduct public business, like initiations.
At the head of the Great Hall are assembled much of the ruling body of the College, while the lower members all tend to divide themselves up by tables in accordance with one of the four declared Philosophies. The members of each Philosophical Path tend to further identify themselves with a symbol and pairing a second color to the traditional black of the Necromancer in their dress.
- The Path of Industry – twin blue skulls within interlocking gears
- The Path of Ego – a violet vertical winged eye
- The Path of Cockaigne – an inverted green ankh
- The Path of the Abyss – a red lemniscate bisected by a downward pointing arrow
Once their initiation ceremony is completed, they receive their new silver medallions of rank and Stormtooth in particular gets an education into both the structural hierarchy of the College, as well a some of the key members of those positions. The blue dragon also learns that to advance above the rank of Magi, a necromancer must duel and replace another who already holds that rank (often to the death).
Hierarchy of the College of Necromancy
Ultima-Magi (1) – There is only one necromancer to carry the rank of Ultima-Magi, who rules ultimately and unchallenged over all College matters for a period of 100 years. Unlike all the lower ranks which must be achieved in succession, technically any member of the College can challenge the Ultima-Magi for his seat once his term expires. The Ultima-Magi also has a vote on the Blackspirian senate, and the School holds three seats in total.
- Grakomel of Nekross – the current Ultima-Magi for the past 98 years, by all appearances he seems merely to be a plain black-robed (displaying no Philosophical ties), gray-bearded human who bears a simple, elegant black staff that is the sign of his office (the legendary Shadowstaff).
Arch-Magnus (3) – There are three necromancers within the College to hold this rank, and often enough they a responsible for external College business as much as internal. Only members of this rank and the Ultima-Magi himself know the secrets to access the legendary Black Vault (which stores the school’s most powerful and dangerous treasures).
- Benjamin Raspbone – G’eldatar’s mentor is one of the most important necromancers in the College. The wight cares little for curriculum beyond his own, and spends much of his time concerned with external affairs and political matters such as senate business and military contracts, as he receives little assistance on that front from the other Arch-Magnuses. He is technically of the Path of the Abyss, but pays it little mind. He is also the Grand Master of the Fraternity of the Fleshless, the secret society of undead members within the College based out of the Obsidian Keep.
- Kviscero, called “Darksoul” – an ancient black dragon vampire who has been a figure of the College since its inception over five centuries ago. His declared Philosophy is unknown and he spends the vast majority of his time within the College’s Clocktower, communicating instead through missives with a vast network of unknowns via his undead kobold messengers. However, the Arch-Magnus actually deigned to attend this Initiation because of Stormtooth’s notoriety, arriving in a hail of black mist and a swarm of reptilian bats to coalesce in his rightful place at the front of the Great Hall.
- The Dread Emperor – blessedly absent is perhaps the most feared necromancer of the school, a golden-armored madman who has declared himself to be the Emperor of the World (and no one who has seen fit to correct him on this point survives to this day). Thankfully, the Emperor spends most of his time abroad, and usually only visits the College for a few weeks every decade or so, and outside from bestowing the occasional gift on the school, seems wholly disinterested in the affairs of the College. No one has seen him in a while though…
Arch-Magi 1st Class (5) – the five members of this rank control much of the most important aspects of College operations. Many of these necromancers have (successfully) held these ranks for centuries.
- Mr. Gnemysyst – a terrifying wraith in command of the army of shadows and other incorporeal undead who oversees all Security matters. Feared by all, there seems no place on the College grounds he and his minions cannot enter… or are not secretly watching in the shadows from. It is not unusual for students to notice out of the corner of their eyes their own cast shadows moving about independently from themselves, a phenomenon that is widely attributed to Gnemysyst’s spies (and taken as a sign to straighten–the-hell-up).
- Erasmus Pale – an incredibly studious lich who is single-handedly responsible for the College’s complex and brilliant Library system, assigning all duties in the Scriptorium (and its “inscribe-a-scroll, take-a-scroll” program), organizing the school’s massive curriculum, as well as maintaining the entire Initiation and Ranking system. He also teaches the very advanced class on the Secret Math which is where G’eldatar learned to understand that mysterious system.
- Sir Vashus Roth – necromancer and Spire Knight worshiper of the Obelisk in charge of College Discipline. Rumors say that once many years ago Vashus desired Benjamin Raspbone’s position, but the Arch-Magnus made some sort of demonstration before their duel which satisfied Roth enough to rescind his challenge. This is noteworthy as Roth also carries the duties of the Grand Arbiter, and judges all Formal Duels between those of the Magnus rank and above. He also has the right to name other Arbiters who have the authority to officiate over Formal Duels, and this includes all the heads of the school’s Dueling Clubs.
- “Prince” Lazalien – another lich whose focus is more on post-Magi work, Independent Studies, and Comparative Magic. He is the final Arbiter on all things related to Magical Study. He is also the Speaker for the Path of Industry, and G’eldatar will eventually seek him out as part of his Declaration process. He does wear a crown, hence his nickname, though if the lich can boast any royal origins, he makes no such claim openly.
- Lord Gymond Blackskull III – necromancer from an ancient Nekrossian (and obscenely wealthy) noble line with powerful ties to the Guild of Silence. Many secretly whisper that Gymond is favored to succeed Grakomel when the time comes… he did kill his own father Gymond II for his Arch-Magi position after all…
Arch-Magi 2nd Class (8) – the eight members of this rank fill out other key responsibilities of the school. Typically only members of this rank or above are given full access to spellbooks containing 9th level spells, and it is at their discretion to whom and to what extent they chose to share this knowledge.
- Sorian Gaul – a zombie lord and the Dean of Admissions. It was he who first tested Stormtooth when he sought entrance into the College. He is also the Speaker for the Path of Ego, and G’eldatar will eventually seek him out as part of his Declaration process.
- The Black Pope – a cleric lich and high priest of Ur (an atheistic religion) who holds regular services at the Sepulcher of the Silent Hymn (also called the Silent Chapel) and oversees all things necromantic that are divine in nature. He is also the Speaker for the Path of Cockaigne, and G’eldatar will eventually seek him out as part of his Declaration process.
- The Mimir – a steampunk demi-lich and member of the Cult of the Spire. While Pale and Lazalien may control the school’s overall magical class structure, the Mimir oversees the all things related to the general Academia of the school.
- Magatha Crooky – a night hag witch with her own large coven of lower ranked members who oversees all those who pursue the path of a Witch or Warlock (as well as the school’s limited Herbology pursuits). She is also one of the two Speakers for the Path of the Abyss, and G’eldatar will eventually seek her out as part of his Declaration process.
- The Weeper – The Death Tyrant cancer mage we’ve grown to know, his expertise in Forensics means he oversees all Anatomical Studies of the school. He is also (ironically enough) one of the other two Speakers for the Path of the Abyss, and G’eldatar will eventually seek him out as part of his Declaration process as well.
- Emmanuel Graithe – a (fairly) direct descendant of Hieronymus Graithe, the founder of the College of Necromancy and who served as its first Arch-Magi 500+ years ago. Another possible favorite to replace Grakomel, if it weren’t so unclear if the man has any interest in College business at all…
- Duchess d’Cherisé – a vampire necromancer and socialite that Maelik Kileam actually once interviewed when he was researching his Lustromo role. It is to she that most members look to when seeking access to the most coveted of incantations, as she is the only teacher who regularly holds classes on 9th level arcane spells.
- Dr. Equinox – a bizarre and mysterious sorcerer that many whisper pursues the dark sciences of realms best left unexplored. Others allege he is the only member of the College who maintains a positive working relationship with The Dread Emperor.
Arch-Magi 3rd Class (13) – the thirteen members of this rank comprise much of the rest of the major Collegiate responsibilities, and while many of the higher ranked members have stood unchallenged for a great many years, from this rank and below, duels for position become far more common. Members who acquire this rank may give lectures to assemblies of Magnuses (and invited Magi).
- Anogaldi Blackskull – the current head of the relatively new branch of study: Alchemy, and is the keeper of the College’s vast Laboratories (so G’eldatar has crossed his path many times). A cousin of Gymond’s and elder brother to the late Magnari, he now possesses the deed to the property of the former Blackskull Hall.
- Jurrigger – a sverfneblin (deep gnome) mad scientist type who oversees all things related to Artificing and is the keeper of the school’s Workshops and Foundries.
- Illissa Hatecraft – a master anatomist who along with her husband runs the College’s Infirmary as well as its Morgue. While the Infirmary serves to keep the odd careless student from meeting their Final Death, the Morgue serves to facilitate much of the raw materials the school requires for all its various activities, and so the Hatecrafts are always in the market for corpses (the fresher/more intact the better).
- Many whisper Illissa should rightfully oversee all things related to Anatomical Studies rather than The Weeper.
- Yegor Graithe – a “Quasimodo” type, this deformed member of that illustrious noble line happily serves as the keeper of the College’s Pens, and oversees much of the experimental cross-breeding programs of various monstrous creatures.
- Artemis Thuula III – master academician and Loremaster from another storied Nekrossian noble line, and a walking encyclopedia of magical artifacts and operations, particularly those of ancient civilizations and eldritch origins.
- Lord Gymond Blackskull I – this aptly named black-skulled lich is the patriarch of that ancient family. He has been a lich far too long to be Gymond III’s actual grandfather, however.
- Alamazer – vain and tittering, passive aggressive yet seemingly timid, he oversees all things related to the creation of flesh (and similar) golems for the school. His line of incredibly life-like flesh golems sell quite well to many a lonely Blackspirian, particularly at the famous store “Kins to Man” whose windows prominently display his “goods” along the Street of Dark Symphonies.
- Rattletooth – a Talos (the word Lizardfolk use for themselves) mummy whose specialty is all things related to bone (and similar) golems.
- Baron von Mindflame – imagine if Ghost Rider dressed like a Cenobyte. Werner von Hriger (sometimes called “Burning Vern” behind his back) began to style himself Baron von Mindflame after the freak accident that transformed his head into a permanently burning skull. Nonetheless he continues to serve as the keeper of the infamous Infurnace, a forging device which purportedly only he can properly operate.
- Raxgim Blackflame – an ancient dwarf who looks like he should have died of old age centuries ago. His tremendous beard is dyed in many striations of different colors and he wears a heavy crown. Students jest that the decrepit old spell-caster claims to be the last living king of the Dwarves.
- Rictor Blackhand – from an offshoot of the Mad Picketts line of that storied family, he carries himself with a debonair air, though his duties to the school are largely unknown.
- Ivan Darkmace – a necromancer from a family with a long history of serving the Dragon Flights, Ivan has found himself far down the path of a Blue Dragon Disciple (now sporting wings and scales). He is the school’s financial liaison to the Bank of Blackspire.
- ??? – it is worth noting there was one obviously empty seat on this tier of the Great Hall, though no peers the PCs consult seems to know who should be sat there.
Magnus 1st Class (21) – the twenty-one members of this rank are said to have proven their special worth to the College and rumors speak of special awards given to those who then go on to serve a specific special role for the school. Typically only members of this rank or above are given full access to spellbooks containing 8th level spells, and it is at their discretion to whom and to what extent they chose to share this knowledge. While there were too many members of this rank to list as the PCs couldn’t absorb them all (nor were all members of this rank present) below are a few who caught the PC’s eye (or vice versa).
- Sir Janus Vei – a vampire knight who bears the strange emblem of a comet on his armor and wields his family’s ancestral golden sword. He is one of the Dueling Masters of the Martial Studies, focusing on mixing magical and martial techniques and Arbiter over many of the official Duels of club members.
- Solissa Harkadies – called “The Violet Flame” this sorceress actually also received her arcane training at the Academy of War Magic. Another of the Dueling Masters, her focus is on winning duels purely through magical (and particularly meta-magical) means. She often insists on co-Arbiting competitions with Sir Vei when their prize pupils are Dueling one another. Both prefer this to asking Sir Vashus Roth to oversee the competition.
- Solomon Graithe – a professor of Foreign Studies and a real adventuring type, the old man occasionally teleports his infamous classes on “field trips” to interesting places around the world.
- Armist the Archiver – a procurer of obscure knowledge, Armist runs a Rare Books shop nestled in the heart of Mage Town. One of the “best known secrets” among the College is the Archiver is a potential source to acquire magical spells above your current grade.
- Mistress Vyscha – a Lolthian necromancer who is also priestess of Lolth.
- Lord Draahd D’Vosh – a Lolthian vampire shadowdancer and Vyscha’s lover.
Magnus 2nd Class (34) – the thirty-four members of this rank occupy other important positions in the College, and are considered special guardians of the school’s secrets. As such they are entrusted with one of the 100 keys that allows for certain secured forbidden books to be removed from the 13th Wing of the Library. While there were again too many members of this rank to list as the PCs couldn’t absorb them all (nor were all members of this rank present either) below are a few who caught the PC’s eye (or vice versa).
- Cynthia Thathis – a Lolthian necromancer who over the past century and a half has helped advance the field of Mortuary Science. Her extended family operates “Lasting Farewells” a highly reputable funeral home in the High City.
- Johann Hatecraft – obedient assistant to his wife Illissa Hatecraft, it is usually left to Johann to run the administrative aspects of the Infirmary and the Morgue, leaving his wife to evaluate the subjects they acquire (both the dead and the still living). The Hatecrafts have also followed in the family publishing tradition and the couple’s own updated anatomy textbooks are widely used throughout the school.
- Dorian Graithe – a socialite, philanderer, and debutante that many scoff hasn’t done anything new since acquiring his Magi decades ago.
- Sergei Fei – the school’s third Dueling Master (and Arbiter) who usually ends up taking on Janus or Solissa’s rejects. He often finds himself serving as Arbiter over many a bickering Duel between Novitiates. He focuses on using offensive magics that exploit the weaknesses of undeath.
- Natalia Pickett – Sergei Fei’s dutiful daughter who is also married to the fearsome Thaybian Pickett.
- Thaybian Pickett – this “renaissance-wizard” also serves as a professor of Metallurgy at the University of Blackspire. At least one of their many children is enrolled at the school as well.
- Ghellis Graitheson – the bastard son of some long forgotten Graithe(now a ghast Arcanist) he serves as the Warden of the Silent City, the school’s cemetery where those members of the College who meet their Final Death are interred.
- Janina Blackhand – Rictor’s daughter whose own sons (rumored to be products of incest) are all also enrolled in the College at various levels.
- Eustace Thuula – Alamazer’s enthusiastic assistant (and biographer) who is rumored to have ties with the Iniquiden.
Magnus 3rd Class (55) – the fifty-five members of this rank comprise the first tier of the 140 total (potential) members of the upper ruling class of the College of Necromancy, and like all the ranks above, each member acquired their position by means of a successful duel. Typically only members of this rank or above are given full access to spellbooks containing 7th level spells, and it is at their discretion to whom and to what extent they chose to share this knowledge. Technically all members of this rank and above comprise the Solve Coagula (the Administrative arm of the College) and often find themselves on various committees or assigned to special projects on behalf of the school. While there were again too many members of this rank to list as the PCs couldn’t absorb them all (nor were all members of this rank present either) below are a few who caught the PC’s eye (or vice versa).
- Mortimer Stitchwell – now quite chummy with the PCs, this eccentric old necromancer’s passions lie beyond just acquiring new exhibits for his Zombie Museum. He also studies a substance called Orsidian (or more commonly “Necrosteel”). This is created from a “naturally” occurring substance called “Golden Ice” which he shapes into tools and weapons as sharp as perfectly angled obsidian and as hard as steel. Often he requires the use of the Infurnace when reshaping Necrosteel.
- Horace North – an illustrious professor of Alchemy. G’eldatar had to fight hard to get into his Critical Wounds class.
- Hektor the Collector – This zombie lord was originally a member of the now (almost completely) fallen von Hriger family. He is now the head of the Collector’s Union, a group of “bring out your dead” types that go about the city of Blackspire collecting corpses for the College.
- Bulurus Wormscrape – this obscenely obese ghoul serves as the Crier for the College, and it is his commanding voice that is often heard opening ceremonies or announcing College business during large gatherings.
- Harridon the Blue – dressed in blue robes trimmed with black, he carries a staff topped with a shard of Black Ice so cold it frosts the air around it. He professes a mastery of this mysterious magical substance, which is one of the very few materials the Red Dragon Army has actually banned from military use.
- Vollo Harkadies – an “Uncle Fester” type (sporting an enchanted monocle) who is Vapho’s brother and Kassindra (von Hriger) Harkadies’s brother-in-law.
- Pazafar the Glib – quite recently deceased from a fire caused when one of his experiments backfired and burned his tower to the ground. The man’s death is noted by the PCs during announcements when Wormscape implies the funeral service in the Silent City will be attended by Pazafar’s surviving loyal (and now homeless) gargoyles…
Magi – There are no limits to the number of lifelong members of the College that can hold the rank of Magi or lower. Earning this rank is the equivalent of earning a PhD in Magic, and the terms Magi and Doctor have even become somewhat interchangeable in recent years. To obtain this rank, the student must have made some kind of new discovery (such as a new spell or magic item) which “furthers the realms of the College’s understanding”. Upon doing this, Magi can then teach classes for the school of any variety appropriate to their skill level and understanding, regardless of whether or not they chose to advance up the College’s Hierarchy further (though they are often still reliant on higher-ranked members to gain access to the spells they seek). Many Magi leave the school at this point to pursue other opportunities, but all are welcome back to gatherings like Initiations, so there were literally hundreds of Magi present at this dinner filling in the long tables divided up by Philosophy. Below are just a few Magi the PCs know (of).
- Dr. Jeckyde – once a serious Alchemist who dedicated his life to discovering the formula for the theoretical Das Elixír, but he abandoned that pursuit in frustrated defeat many years ago, and he now serves as the gruff bartender for the Blackskull Arms.
- Kalazar Harkadies – advisor to Felix IV, leader of the Knights of Pickett’s Ward Mercenary Company. A very minor member of that illustrious house, he’s made his fortune in the mercenary game.
- Last Kiss – a medusa assassin who is both the Muse of Natural Sciences for the Gorgonate and the leader of the Lifequencher’s Union Order within the Guild of Silence. She earned her Magi by synthesizing some new and very virulent poisons…
- Solona, Solinaa, and Solonis Harkadies – a wizard, a witch, and an oracle, these three are younger sisters to Solissa the Violet Flame.
- Maestro Phalagiari – a bard lich (sporting a gold plated skull under a powdered wig) who is the proprietor of the Legion-owned opera house The Black Stage, and who was also the greatest source for Maelik Kileam’s research of the vampire poet Lustromo.
- Dr. Primæus – an Alchemist girillion (a blue four-armed gorilla monster) who was “awakened” to a genius-level intelligence though dark experiments (purportedly of Dr. Equinox’s design) and that later went on to join the Cult of the Spire at the same time as earning his Magi. Now a half-iron golem with a number of steampunk implants, including a mechanization of his arms, and the conversion of one into a launcher to fire his alchemist bombs.
Potentate – Typically only members of this rank or above are given full access to spellbooks containing 6th level spells, and it is at their discretion to whom and to what extent they chose to share this knowledge. Only members of this rank or above are authorized to own or operate a crystal ball without supervision. Additionally, those members whose petition to the Fraternity of the Fleshless is approved may now seek an undead state if it is within their means. Some pursuits (such as lichdom) will likely take many more years of study to accomplish, but at this point they have the school’s blessing to continue.
- Messelmar – was technically of this rank and working on his Magi (Dragon Engines with regenerating troops) before his expulsion from the College of Necromancy. He actually performed the Flayed Man operation on himself as way of proving his worth as a Prelate to the Fraternity of the Fleshless. Some applauded his boldness while others cited breach of protocol as his operation to transition to Undeath was not technically approved.
Prelate – those of these rank are inducted into some of the more “common” secret mysteries of the school, particularly the creation of Corpse Candles and Ghost Ink (which members use to inscribe and then read secret messages from one another) as well as being given a key to access the infamous 13th Wing (Forbidden Section) of the Library. And perhaps most coveted, members of this rank may now petition the Fraternity of the Fleshless with their proposal of the manner and means they will pursue to achieve a state of Undeath, if such is their wish.
- Parfinakis – a half-green dragon gargoyle (whose name means “Decoration” in Draconic) was born atop the University of Blackspire, but his fascination with Alchemy led him to pursue an education at the College. He moonlights as a bartender mixing magical cocktails for elite gatherings (such as at the Gorgonate).
Fellow – Those of this rank are considered as Journeymen of the College (the equivalent of a Master’s Degree), and are authorized to practice magic in their name. As such, members of this rank may place the College Hallmark on the magic items they create (and can then up-sell them accordingly). Formal Declaration and induction into one of the four Paths by the Speaker of that Philosophy occurs at this point as well. Typically only members of this rank or above are given full access to spellbooks containing 5th level spells.
Collegiate – members of this rank are considered to have completed their basic studies and are ready to declare the higher disciplines they will seek to master. Many students of this rank find themselves serving as teaching assistants, and quite often even teach their professors’ classes in their stead. Before moving on to the next rank, a Collegiate must declare for one of the Four Philosophies the College recognizes.
Baccalaurate – members of this rank are considered to have completed the first tier of their higher education, and at this point many students no longer desire further advancement in the College, and instead seek employment elsewhere in Blackspire. Typically only members of this rank or above are given full access to spellbooks containing 4th level spells.
Novitiate 1st Class – the final “underclassman” rank before “graduation”.
Novitiate 2nd Class – Typically only members of this rank or above are given full access to spellbooks containing 3rd level spells.
Novitiate 3rd Class – the “sophomores” of the school. Successfully casting one’s first of the classically destructive spells (such as Fireball, Lightning Bolt, or Vampiric Touch) indicating one is ready for advancement to the next rank is considered a rite of passage among serious students. Considered crossing a threshold into a wider world, this achievement is often referred to as one’s “Unlocking” and often earns one a free night of drinks at the Blackskull Arms.
Novitiate 4th Class – the equivalent of a “freshman” underclassman, at this point students begin to learn more complex magical operations. Typically only members of this rank or above are given full access to spellbooks containing 2nd level spells.
Novice – the equivalent of an Apprentice (or a grade school student), most potential necromancers achieve this rank by their early teens. This is the first “permanent” rank of the College, and members can achieve it when they cast their first successful 1st level spell or win their first duel. Novices are then given access to all 1st level spells.
Initiate – the lowest rank is considered probationary, but new members must still swear an Oath to put obedience to the College of Necromancy above all other loyalties (family, political/religious organizations, and even other factions of the Legion) and while within the grounds of the school to do no harm to your fellow members. Initiates are given access to all 0 and many standard 1st level spells (as outlined in the mass-produced Via Occultis spellbook offered for sale at Admission) and students will remain at this rank until they demonstrate some manner of magical spell casting ability.
After the ceremonies are complete, the PCs need to return to White Hydra Hall to begin the Jade Town negotiations, but not before Stormtooth receives a cryptic invitation to pay Darksoul a visit some time in his (typically off-limits) Clocktower.
It’s been decided that each faction of the Jade Town dispute will have a member of the White Hydra Mercenary Company to act as both liaison and advisor. Melaria is paired with Daki Goldtooth (and Ahoo Goodfinder), Maelik Kileam is with Felix IV, Marv is with Spike, Forgarth, and Gorbo (though they mostly spend their time swapping gladiator stories), and Stormtooth is paired with Gem-Lung. Each leader is to bring only two bodyguards, and the sapphire dragon is attended by none other than Mitsuko the werefox, and Lun-Tai the cyclops!
The talks start out tense, to say the least…
Blackspire Session 27 – Ordering (a) Take-Out
Tensions continue to increase as the fate of Jade Town is decided at White Hydra Hall…
The “peace talks” of Jade Town continue, with each leader trying to carve himself up a piece of the neighborhood… and everyone’s slice is too large for the others’ liking. Things seem like they are about to come to blows when the talks are suddenly interrupted by unexpected guests…
The Weeper arrives at the head of a group of Beholder Constables and loudly declares the murderer of their brethren during the Battle of Jade Town that they seek is among the assembled negotiators. It is a tense few seconds before The Weeper identifies Lun-Tai as their quarry. The cyclops pleads for his life, but no one, not even Gem-Lung objects (though he clearly wants to), so the Beholders promptly disintegrate the bruiser into a pile of dust, and satisfied that justice has been served… promptly leave.
Naturally, this disrupts talks immensely, and after a long series of negotiations, the White Hydra manage to convince Gem-Lung that his honor does not require him to step into the role of the next yakuza boss of Jade Town, and that if he wished, he should return to his homeland of the Shadow Dragon Empire. The sapphire dragon had not considered this option, and after agreeing to part with a small share of his hoard of valuable sapphires with the mercenaries, decides to leave Jade Town. Mitsuko on the other hand, disappears at some point during this exchange, and the PCs lose track of her.
Felix also accepts a portion of the dragon’s treasure and in return rescinds any desire to control Jade Town, leaving it to long-time rivals Spike and Daki to decide how they will eventually carve the neighborhood up.
Blackspire Session 28 – Off the Map (Here There be Dragons)
New opportunities present themselves, but old habits die hard.
G’eldatar makes it a point to attend the (otherwise sparely attended) funeral for Parzifal the Glib in the Silent City, and by doing so manages to meet the late necromancer’s surviving gargoyle servants. Each gargoyle has the appearance of black obsidian with a red-orange glow emerging from beneath cracks in their skin (and out of their eyes) which marks them as Citadel bred (and thus military-trained) creatures. They come from a long line of gargoyles bred by the Red Dragon Army for war-time castle defense at the Obsidian Citadel, central headquarters of the Blackspirian armed forces.
Their leader is a draconic-looking gargoyle named Dragonglass, and with him is his strategist Magmind, his scout Lavaheart, and twin sentries Shard and Shatter. While Dragonglass is currently entertaining a number of different offers of a new home and household for the group to serve, he agrees to visit White Hydra Hall and discuss possible arrangements with Melaria. Upon visiting, Magmind claims the mansion has a strong tie to The Meld, and with unhatched young in need of protection (as well as boasting an experienced butler to handle the more boring duties) ultimately the five gargoyles will agree to move to (and meld with) White Hydra Hall.
Additionally, thanks to Melaria’s rapport with Speaker Megali, the White Hydra Mercenaries have managed to land a regular gig serving as security at the Gorgatorium during the monthly gatherings of the Gorgonate Symposium. Each of the first nine months of the year is dedicated to a different creative endeavor and one of the Nine Muses of each discipline uses the Symposium to showcase the greatest talents the Gorgonate has to offer in those fields. At the end of the year is the Grand Symposium, in which all the best of the best work of the year is again on display, and the new Muses for the coming year are chosen (or reconfirmed).
Melaria also gives the PCs an education on identifying the various races and tribes of her people, as members of each are present in droves at this event. In addition, Melaria learns who the current Matriarchs of each of the six medusa tribes are.
Medusae – the most common of the three races, petrified victims resemble dark grey or black basalt (volcanic).
- 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 Speaker Megali who is also the tribe’s Matriarch. Additionally, her role as Speaker means she actually represents all the Plebeian races of Blackspire (not just the Gorgonate) and as such has a single vote in the Blackspire Senate.
- Lapisium – snakes like cobras, with ears like a hood that connects with the neck/shoulders. They have scaly skin and a reptilian appearance. Their Matriarch is Polia, a wealthy spice merchant.
Stheno – the most warlike of the three races (renowned for their skill at archery), petrified victims resemble various shades (typically light grey or brown) of granite (metamorphic).
- Kymygian – typically have snakes like boas or pythons, but otherwise colorings vary widely. Melaria is of this tribe and their Matriarch is Palsynia, a famous gladiator of the Red Sands Colosseum.
- Ostuphius – snakes like rattlesnakes, complete with rattling earlobes. Skin tone resembles their snake colorings. Their Matriarch is the red-winged sorceress Bubonia, a general in the Blackspirian armed forces and a Red Dragon Disciple.
Eurayle – considered the “oracles” of the medusa races, petrified victims resemble white or tan sandstone (sedimentary).
- Gemmati – typically have numerous small snakes (like coral or green snakes) though colorings vary widely. Their Matriarch is Namia, a cleric of the Church of Tiamat as well as a Professor of Numerology at the University of Blackspire.
- Anguisate – hideous even by medusa standards of beauty, they have a snake-like body in replace of legs. Their Matriarch is Jytus who also serves as Speaker Megali’s personal diviner.
In the course of the event, the PCs are also introduced to who the Nine Muses of the Gorgonate are (or were)…
- Umberculo – a flamboyant male medusa (maedar), he is the Muse of Poetry & Literature, focusing on high verse.
- Nymphoma – from ballet to belly-dancing, this lithe Saxum is the Muse of Dance.
- Nurexia – styling herself a warrior poet, this Ostuphius uses her rattling earlobes to accompany her playing of string instruments while singing. The Muse of Music is a popular attraction in high-class military bars throughout the High City.
- Diabynia – this plump Gemmati is a notoriously scathing satirist, and is the long-sitting Muse of Drama.
- Myclydia – this scholarly Kymygian is the Muse of Geography and is unveiling something special for this month’s Symposium which she is in charge of.
- Hesphetites – the late Saxum and well known painter was the Muse of the Arts. Melaria’s sister Virpia would likely have been favored to succeed her, but with both now out of the picture, there is much speculation as to who might step up to fill her spot, especially since there is no Muse to curate the Symposium of the Arts this Primordius.
- Last Kiss – the Lapisium assassin from the Guild of Silence is the Muse of Natural Sciences, though some claim she also covets Polia’s position as Matriarch of their tribe.
- Professor Namia – the Matriarch’s numerology background makes her a natural fit for the Muse of Mathematics, and her lectures on sacred geometry and The Secret Math from past years are much talked about.
- Jytus – this Matriarch is also the Muse of Philosophy, though her approach is much more oracular in nature. She casts divinations using runed stone dodecahedrons (d12s) carved out of the petrified bodies of various sources.
Since this month is the Symposium of Geography, the PCs are treated to a number of interesting sights, including a scale model of the city of Blackspire. However, the item that causes the most controversy is Myclydia’s unveiling of her new and updated globe of the world, a huge construction that fills a large portion of a gallery in Gorgatorium.
This is the PCs first glimpse of the wider world beyond the borders of their city, and while many folks argue the accuracy of the map (“Adon’Far isn’t even there anymore”, claims one) this unveiling actually ends up not being the most controversial thing to happen at the Symposium…
Blackspire Session 29 – Drawing the Crowd, Crowding the Draw
What a lovely party…
While Maelik Kileam’s fame goes a long way with some of the Muses, especially Diabynia, who even offers to engage the doppleganger’s impersonation skills to participate in next month’s Symposium of Drama, the focus really becomes on Myclidia’s presentation on the various pre and post-Blackspirian sources she consulted when creating her globe.
However, the events are disrupted when a drunk, boorish maedar gigalo by the name of Cyrogonese arrives late and begins loudly flirting with females in the audience. This is made doubly awkward in that (thanks to Megali’s sources) Cyrogonese is believed to be Melaria’s biological father, and when the albino medusa approaches the lush to get him quietly into his seat, the hand he places on her ass… he almost loses. Once his daughter’s identity is revealed to him… he instead asks to borrow money from her, to whit Melaria promptly punches the drunk unconscious and Stormtooth drags him from the hall. The resulting gossip spreads faster than wildfire…
Nonetheless, the White Hydra Mercenaries make a number of new contacts at the event, some of whom will even attend Marv’s upcoming gladiatorial fight. In preparation for which, the fire giant Gregus has allowed G’eldatar access to his work space so the alchemist can perform the very involved and delicate dental procedure required to remove all the (regenerating) pointed teeth from Marv’s mouth, and then quickly surgically install the set of adamantine/mithril alloy jaws the troll claimed from his half-brother Murt & Glurt. Gregus even lets the Lolthian use the space for free if he and his people can watch the surgery, which thanks to a combination G’eldatar’s powerful drugs and expert chiurgeon skills, is ultimately a complete success. Marv’s new set of chompers can now chomp through anything…
Upon the PCs return to White Hydra Hall, they see their new gargoyle security force has moved in, and (using an ancient gargoyle technique) are in the process of applying the magical substance Sovereign Glue to their personal obsidian Lifestones, which will attach these blocks to the building, and make them a part of its Meld, even though they weren’t actually hatched there.
The Crimson Shadow appears soon after and is pleased to inform Melaria and Solina that the 1000 Eyes have assigned them a new and potentially very lucrative assassination job. It appears that Kassindra (von Hriger) Harkadies wants her husband Vapho, his many mistresses, and his various bastard children all dead… and in the most imaginative way possible. The noblewoman has many initial ideas for what she wants to happen, but it will be up to the girls to work out the specific details (and the specific fees).
And so Melaria and Solina are given one of the most coveted items a member of the Guild of Silence can receive… a blank Sacred Invoice..!
Blackspire Session 30 – Gambits, Gambles and Gore Galore
Marv faces off against the Acirachnid, an unholy monstrosity spawned from the bowels of the College of Necromancy. Meanwhile our assassins arrange for the downfall of Vapho Harkadies and his own unholy spawn.
The time has fast approached where Marv will have his next gladiatorial fight in the Grumchucker Arena, and the elf Liff has done a fantastic job of spreading the word, as the stadium is packed to capacity with Marv now heavily favored to win.
While gladikers and others associated with a gladiator’s ludus can only (and are in fact encouraged to) bet on their own champion, they can only bet on him to simply win the fight. For any other Blackspirians however, there are a myriad of sub-bets and side bets one can place with the Celebrant’s bookies on these sorts of competitions, everything from the total length of the fight to the most random happenstance to occur during…
The Weeper understands this and has come to extract his favor from Marv. Currently the odds are running 50-1 against that Marv will lose a limb at some point during the fight. The Weeper makes it clear he expects this to actually happen…
In the meantime, the assassins meet with Lady Kessindra Harkadies and receive the full story of why she wants her husband dead. She appears to be the last “living” member (there are a few undead members still) of the illustrious von Hriger family of Old Nekross. Suffering a long litany of feuds, assassination attempts, neglect, and betrayal, the harshest blow was struck when her father Hubert was assassinated while she was still at the University of Blackspire, and her two brothers then forced her to marry. She’d developed something of a wanton reputation at school, and so her brothers were only eventually able to marry her off to the repugnant Vapho Harkadies.
A total sadist, it appears that Vapho can only become sexually excited when inflicting pain on his partner, so in all their years of marriage, Kessindra was only able to endure enough to give Vapho two still-borns, and a sickly boy named Fascia. Her two brothers got eventually themselves (and their respective families) killed trying to scam political favors by leveraging the Harkadies name, leaving her the last living von Hriger of Blackspire. It was during this period she became fascinated with her own pain, and came to understand herself through Virpia’s work (particularly her Mortesium phase featuring screaming subjects petrified mid-dissection). Vapho in the meantime had gone on to sire three different bastard children by three different women. And since her brothers’ deaths, Vapho has also commandeered the Bank Key to the von Hriger fortune (which he has been draining ever since) as well as claiming the ancestral sword of the von Hriger family, an elegant black longsword called Youthdrinker. He also moved Kessindra and Fascia with him into the lavish, and previously vacant, von Hriger Estate in the finest section of Mage Town.
Then quite recently everything started getting worse rather quickly…
It began when Dryskull, the mummy bodyguard who had served the von Hriger family for generations was mysteriously destroyed in a stable fire on the estate grounds, and Kassindra suspects her husband’s manservant Rory d’Roark (half-ogre, half-orc) of the crime. This had happened just days before the auction at White Hydra Hall and ever since she’s not certain she can trust the remaining house guards: Franz, Lomo, and Gormo (half-orc brothers) any longer either.
Now, Vapho had always despised Fascia’s weakness and openly shunned him. The bed-ridden teenager dreamed that one day he might join the Academy of War Magic and become a great wizard like his famous ancestor Magót Harkadies, a hero of the Dark Alliance… while Kessindra preferred her own famous ancestor Helmut von Hriger who took up Youthdrinker in his late nineties, and was a fresh-faced adolescent by the end of the War. But all that dreaming was for naught, for just a few days ago Kessindra found her son lying dead in his bed of unknown causes. While she suspects one of Vapho’s bastards (and possibly Fascia’s dwarven maid Hilly) was somehow responsible, Vapho himself now seems to have totally “forgotten” he ever had a son, and if Kessindra brings up Fascia to him, her husband claims she is crazy and made him up. The boy’s corpse (who Vapho “swore” he didn’t recognize) now rests in a Gentle Repose coffin in her private bedchambers.
Kessindra provides the PCs all the information she has about Vapho’s lovers and bastards (she had engaged The Eye in the Pyramid prior to The Order of the Dark Mirror). Obviously, the White Hydra will take the job, but much more intelligence will need to be gathered (and negotiations to be had) before the assassins can draw up the Sacred Invoice and begin the mission. They’re also going to need some more help… good thing Kaidon, Ennith, and Bloodshade are all currently crashing rent-free in their mansion…
But, the time has finally come for Marv’s gladiatorial combat and the newcomer troll has started to draw a real following, especially among the goblin population, many of whom have taken to painting a lamppost on their clothing as a sign of their support and are literally climbing the walls of the Grumchucker Arena to get a view of the fight. Spike and Daki (along with some of the Gorgonate members) are all in attendance, and Melaria is sure to send rounds of drinks out to each from her luxury box.
The PCs also all spot The Weeper, lurking in the back near the bookies’ stalls.
Of late, Maelik Kileam has been working on his gladiker persona, and while he still uses his real name, he chooses to take the form of a deep-voiced dwarf which he assumes again today when introducing Marv (the Son of Vram) to the crowd from the White Hydra’s box. For some reason however, this persona seems to have upset many of the dwarves in the crowd, who seem to think they’re being mocked by the doppleganger and don’t make their disappointment private…
However, it is then the deformed necromancer Yegor Graithe (on behalf of the Celebrant) introduces Marv’s opponent, the monstrous Acirachnid… The creature is a bizarre version of a chimera, sporting the traditional goat and (black) dragon heads, but rather than the typical lion, the central head belongs to an ankheg… a strange acid-spewing insectile creature from some distant desert land. With twin acidic attacks, Marv will likely not be able to rely on his regenerative abilities this fight…
Additionally the creature has a kobold that serves as its “handler” and as such G’eldatar can also be permitted on the grounds of the arena to lend his own “aid” to Marv.
The main complaint with Marv’s previous gladiatorial victories was that he won all his fights too quickly, so this time the troll does his best to drag out the combat and make it more exciting. As the two killing machines exchange attacks, perhaps Marv takes a bit too long, as the assembly of cheering goblin attendees start to go completely bonkers in feverish anticipation of the kill…
Blackspire Session 31 – GIT ON WIT’ IT!!!
SON OF VRAM!!!
SON OF VRAM!!!
SON OF VRAM!!!
Maelik Kileam risks breaking the Arena rules, and subtly casts a spell to help Marv with the next stage of the deception. With a magical bonus to his Bluff, Marv manages to “slip up” convincingly (enough) and allows his arm to be “accidentally” severed by the chimera’s snapping ankheg pincers. The crowd is stunned, but Marv wastes no time at this point and with his new metal teeth and remaining claw, finally makes short work of the beast…
The crowd goes completely nuts, and there are small “victory riots” throughout Grumchucker’s Square and Pickett’s Ward for the rest of the day. And it also appears The Weeper cashed out his massive 50-1 wager, and slipped away from the Arena before the fight was even over…
Victorious nonetheless, this also means Marv’s record of 3-0 means he’s now eligible to participate in the Last Man Standing competition. This free-for-all melee is held twice yearly in the Grumchucker Arena, the winner of which may challenge the current champion of the Arena… currently an opponent with a fierce reputation who has defended the title for the past three years, known only as The Sleeper.
The White Hydra mercenaries hit the Bloody Coin to celebrate and give Marv’s severed arm time to reattach itself. Liff is invited along as part of the crew as well, and he favors the mercenaries with a little toast he’s written:
A toast, and a boast... for I'd dare not lie ta ya... Raise your glasses and drink to the fearsome White Hydra! We drink deep of victory, don't dare dampen our pace... Cut off one of our bar tabs... and two more will grow back in its place!
Drunk on victory (and wine) they stumble home, but when they arrive back at the mansion (and through the throng of celebrating fans) their gargoyles reveal that a stranger from outside the city of Blackspire has unexpectedly arrived on the grounds, and she wishes to speak with the building’s owners.
The visitor is a strikingly different looking gargoyle druid (and a new PC) who calls herself Saint Jezebel. She claims to have traveled many, many weeks, following a vision which has led her to this place.
Everyone (particularly the gargoyles) seems to agree that Fate has brought them all together at this time and place, and Jezebel soon installs her own Birthstone into the ramparts of White Hydra Hall, as well as becoming the newest recruit of Melaria’s mercenary company.
Blackspire Session 32 – Invoice Due
Everything rides on the successful assassination of Vapho Harkadies and his ill-spawned brood.
The White Hydra mercenaries dedicate the full might of all their resources to gathering as much intelligence as possible on their various assassination targets, including full identities, homes, jobs, schedules, relationships, and personal habits. Even engaging Kaidon J’Zemmel, Ennith the Harpy, and Mistress Bloodshade’s assistance is not enough, and so Melaria opts to ask Naviga Bladeheart of the Dark Mirror to also help them with this operation. Naviga is no more friendly towards (or less envious of) Solina than she was before, but ultimately the vampire is a professional at her core, and for a fair share of the reward she agrees to lend them her aid.
They split up and each follow their quarries for days, and manage to discover the following information about their targets.
- Vapho Harkadies – in his seventies, but thanks to Youthdrinker he currently looks in his thirties, is considered by many to only be a second-rate torturer in the Guild of Secrets (for an Order called The Megalochists) and a third-rate magician as he only reached Novitiate 2nd Class before dropping out of the College of Necromancy. A life-long “trust fund baby”, Vapho has always relied on the influence of his great-uncle: Vegafel the Catholic (the Grand Wizard-General of the Academy of War Magic) for his positions throughout life, and of late has simply seen fit to openly squander his wife’s family fortune on a number of his sadistic interests. His mistresses are all chosen based on their tolerance for enduring his torturous ways. Melaria, Solina, and St. Jezebel are the ones to follow and investigate Vapho (as well as his manservant).
- Rory d’Roark – like some hybrid of Mr. Hyde and Solomon Grundy, “Rory d’Roark; Half-Ogre, Half-Orc” (as he introduces himself) is Vapho’s loyal bodyguard and manservant, and is always at his side. The two of them regularly travel about town in Vapho’s private carriage. Kessindra does not care if Rory survives or not, and would even accept his services afterwards if he agreed to work for her once Vapho was dead.
- Yazmina – a former tavern wench who once worked for an establishment in the Grand Bazaar that isn’t even there anymore, years ago Vapho snatched her up and gave her the “girlfriend treatment” (apartment, clothes, money, etc…). She endured his sexual torture to save herself the nightly alley gang rapes care of her drunken patrons. Vapho tested the limits of her endurance, but he also helped get her schooling and later a filing job at the Hall of Records. Now retired, when not shopping at the Grand Bazaar with her son, she whiles her days away at the seaside chatting away with her neighbors in the Waterfront Estates District, a gated community whose neighborhood is heavily patrolled by well-paid Beholders that can easily recognize any and all locals (and their regular visitors). It is Maelik Kileam who spends an afternoon gossiping with Yazmina (who uses every opportunity to brag about her successful son Vaal) all the while the doppleganger is masquerading as the woman’s forgetful best friend.
- Vaal Harkadieson – a junior banker and small loans officer for the Bank of Blackspire in the Collections Wing: offices of Zaalvyaar, Skeyvyaar & Tolivyaar (called Quickspark, Skyspark & Thunderspark) and as such Vaal speaks fluent Draconic. Stormtooth confides that working with these particular dragons means that Vaal deals almost exclusively in predatory loans designed to fail so that the Bank can then turn around and seize the duped borrower’s collateral upon defaulting. A drunkard, braggart, unabashed draco-phile, and would-be duelist, Naviga (who was the one to follow Vaal) also reveals that Vapho’s eldest bastard has a few girlfriends of his own on the side, one of whom is obviously pregnant. Melaria ultimately decides to keep that last piece of info from Lady Kessindra.
- Ishti – born into slavery, she endured years of torture and abuse at the hands of many owners, and discovered a certain feeling of freedom and relief in the form of submission and masochism. She came to believe that if she became an obedient and joyful victim, maybe she would one day fetch a generous master. Vapho eventually purchased her from an Illithid named Oinucto who operates a busy auction house out of the Slave District (and to whom Vapho remains a loyal customer to this day). When Ishti became pregnant with their daughter Velial, Vapho moved her to an abandoned tower owned by the von Hriger family on the almost completely abandoned edge of Mage Town (adjacent to the wall separating that neighborhood from the Necropolis), and there Vapho has build for them a “fairy tale” existence. It is G’eldatar, Marv, and Ennith who are the ones to investigate the denizens of this tower, and learn quite quickly that Ishti has a paralyzing fear of the dark. She is never without several burning candles nearby at any time.
- “Princess” Velial – has spent her entire life within the walls of the tower of the late Ghellen von Hriger, and in truth her crippling agoraphobia means she has no desire to ever leave it. Aside from a single front door (magically locked and Vapho has the only key), the tower sports only one other opening, a single high window on the uppermost floor that looks out on the silent Necropolis. This situation has allowed for Vapho over the years to convince his spoiled daughter that he is actually the king of this land, that she is in fact a real princess, and that he has locked her safely away in this tower to keep her and the Queen safe from “the enemies of the crown”. Showering her with (von Hriger) jewels, clothing, and every fairy tale book he could get his hands on to help fuel this fantasy, Velial (now a teenager) has grown up a doted-upon, can-do-no-wrong, bratty, daddy’s girl in a severe state of arrested development. In fact, Vapho has even given “Princess” Velial her own servant to serve as a whipping-girl that he will punish instead of his daughter for her misdeeds. This young adolescent slave girl who she refers to only as “Snot”, is the subject of Velial’s constant daily torment, and the cruel “aristocrat” will even purposely misbehave at times so that her father will be “forced” to punish the whipping-girl during his weekly visits.
- “Sir Shiny” – While Ennith spent many hours listening invisibly at the tower window to the conversations within, though she did hear Velial threaten both Snot and her weak-willed mother with punishment at the hand of her obedient knight she calls “Sir Shiny”, at no point did the Harpy actually see hide nor hair of this guardian. Still, this intel is cause for some concern, as is whatever the potential source of the women’s debilitating phobias might be.
- Dorothy Graitheson – the bastard daughter of the necromancer Dorian Graithe and a high-end courtesan, Dorothy has followed in her mother’s footsteps and has learned the high-class trade of “intimate socializing” with aristocrats out of her manor in the Vider’Ran District. Hoping that he might one day leave his wife for her, Dorothy endured Vapho’s proclivities, and has even born him his “favorite son” Veezle, who she has groomed to be just like his father (and who still lives at home with her). Plus now that he’s thirteen years old, Vapho has even managed to get Veezle an apprenticeship with the Guild of Secrets (though he doesn’t show much promise… he’s brutal and cruel, but lacking in finesse). Naviga was also sent to gather information on Dorothy as well as Vaal, but this time the vampire opted simply to Dominate the courtesan and just pry the info she wished from her. Under Naviga’s command, Dorothy freely admitted to plotting Fascia’s murder with her son after Vapho endorsed it, and even bribed the nurse Hildy to sneak Veezle into the boy’s bedchamber. Veezle then murdered Fascia by stabbing him in the ear canal with a wound-cauterizing stiletto she’s given him. Naviga also managed to learn Dorothy and Veezle plan to murder Vaal next, that is before issuing a command to Dorothy to completely forget the conversation they just had, or that Naviga had even been there…
- Veezle Graithegranson – the bastard son of a bastard (a “Twice-Bastard”) the cruel Veezle is a chip off the old block. The apple of his father’s eye, Vapho even gifted his son with a magical serrated mithril dirk he named “Ol’ Phlegmy”. Mistress Bloodshade uses her various Guild contacts and manages to learn that Veezle is apprenticed to a gnoll mummy named Cesubris who is the leader of an Order within the Guild of Secrets called The Dog-Faced Gods (a group who specialize in convincing their victims they’ve died and gone to Hell, and then torture them to “extract their sins”). Veezle prefers to go about his bloody business wearing a wolf mask, and even hopes to one day contract lycanthropy.
Their targets identified and schedules anticipated, the PCs make the final negotiations item by item that will go on the Sacred Invoice (including which final actions are optional and which are mandatory). The billable items include the absolute essential return of the von Hriger Bank Key and the blade Youthdrinker. The operation will first consist of the separate capture of all mistresses and bastards who the White Hydra will deliver them all to the von Hriger estate in crates (feigning a delivery of more Virpia pieces). St. Jezebel will even use her gargolye freeze ability to masquerade as a statue that Lady Kessindra will then enlist Rory’s aid to transport it into the bedroom.
In the meantime, it will have been left to the assassins to lure Vapho back to his home (and bedroom). The plan will then be to petrify the disrobed (and properly excited) Vapho, and then using the Virpia method of applying Stone Salve to the eyes to unpetrify and thus awaken the victim, Vapho will then have to watch as they use adamantine blades to take him apart piece by piece (keeping only the smallest of trophies) until there is nothing of Vapho left except a head and shoulders stone bust Kessindra plans to always keep at her bedside. He’ll then watch as one by one his lovers and heirs are slaughtered and Kessindra will bathe in their blood all whilst being ravished by Marv the troll…
Um… the final charges on the Sacred Invoice reach nearly to five digits and Kessindra doesn’t bat an eye, even promising a special gratuity if she gets everything exactly the way she wants it to go…
The White Hydra are determined to try to deliver…
Blackspire Session 33 – The Big Fat Kill & The Dame to Kill For (Pt I)
It’s too late to turn back now…
So, at this point I’m going to share Melaria’s strategy for this delicate and complex assassination operation. Her work and planning was impressive and worth sharing:
I think I have a plan!
TARGET 1- VAAL HARKADIESON
o OPERATIVES- AXXITONIS AND LAVAHEART (GARGOYLE) o GOAL- Return w/ Vaal to Hydra Hall by 7th toll o Plan Idea: Axxitonis and Lavaheart will perch across from the bank waiting for Vaal to get off work (5th toll). Lavaheart will tail Vaal, once Vaal has chosen his after work drinking spot Lavaheart will come back to Axxitonis. Axxitonis will then go the pub and try to get Vaal to buy him a drink. Should Axxitonis not emerge w/ Vaal after 30 minutes, Lavaheart will come in, make a scene badmouthing humans and Axxitonis can use that opportunity to throw Lavaheart out, give Vaal a “this guy” look and conversation should open from there. Axxitonis should invite him back to hydra hall for a drink and let Vaal know that maybe if Axxitonis gets drunk enough, he’ll take Vaal for a flight.
TARGET 2-VAPHO HARKADIES & RORY d’ROARK
o OPERATIVES- SOLINA, MELARIA, MAELIK KILEAM o GOAL-Lead Vapho and Rory to Vapho’s house and wait for trouble to arrive. This needs to happen early enough in the day that the TARGET 3 team has time to complete their mission. o Plan Idea: Solina will follow Vapho and Rory and when an opportunity arises, Solina will dominate Vapho. He is to believe that Solina is his girlfriend. Once Vapho is dominated, Solina will dominate Rory. Solina will tell him about a friend of hers that would love to “play” with them. The 3 will then leave and Solina will lead them to another dark, quiet bar where Melaria will be waiting. Solina & Vapho will join Melaria and Maelik Kileam, where Melaria who will tease Vapho about all the things he can do to her that evening (basically get him hot & bothered). Maelik will then have the opportunity to read Vapho’s mind so that he can impersonate Vapho to retrieve Yazmina. Solina will command Vapho to give her his ring of keys, which she will hand off to Melaria. Melaria and Maelik will leave. Solina, Rory, and Vapho will then do whatever as long as they end up at Vapho’s house by 7th toll. He should be waiting for us to arrive.
TARGET 3- ISHTI/Velial/Sir Shiny/Snot
o operatives- G’eldatar, Marv, Ennith (harpy), Melaria o Goal- return w/ Ishti/Velial/Snot to Hydra Hall by 7th toll o Plan Idea: When Melaria leaves Solina, she will hand off Vapho’s keys to G'eldatar. G’eldatar, Marv, and Ennith will then proceed to the tower to capture the “queen” and “princess”. (I’m really going to leave the details to you guys to work out. You may want to message "Ennith" to plan it out, or we can do it tomorrow night)
o OPERATIVES- MAELIK KILEAM o GOAL- Return w/ Yazmina to Hydra Hall by 7th toll. o Plan Idea: Try to get her to come with you to Hydra Hall willingly. The waterfront district is a gated community and patrolled by beholders (not a good idea to drug her and drag her out). You may want to impersonate Vapho. Now- it will be strange that Vapho is there w/o Rory or his carriage, so you could use that as an opportunity to let her know that you (Vapho) are in danger, Rory has been killed and you need to get her to safety (Hydra Hall). Again, I am going to leave this up to you, but would encourage you to talk to Naviga who did recon on Yazmina.
Target 5- VEEZLE
o OPERATIVE: BLOODSHADE o GOAL: Return w/ Veezle to Hydra Hall by 7th toll.
TARGET 6-DOROTHY GRAITHSON
o OPERATIVE: NAVIGA o GOAL: Return w/ dominated Dorothy Graithson to Hydra Hall by 7th toll. Now, I have “Lothian” poison to dose all of the targets. Once everyone has their targets back at Hydra Hall, all targets should be dosed to unconsciousness. We will then pack them into 2 crates, we will pack St. Jezebel into a third crate. We will load up Virpia’s wagon with the crates, and have the zombie gorgon pull the wagon to Vapho’s. In the meantime Solina has been keeping Vapho occupied at his house (presumably in his private chambers where they won’t be “disturbed” (by the ruckus that’s about to go down). We will arrive; Lady Kessindra should meet us and can also make sure Rory is downstairs to assist in bringing in the crates w/ Marv. Note: there are also three house guards” Franz, Lomo, and Gormo; they know to expect our coming, and we may or may not have to take them out when the time comes. We will then unpackage the St. Jezebel crate. St. Jezebel will have the opportunity to surprise attack Rory w/ her big ass spear and w/ Marv should be able to take this Rory guy out. We may need Maelik Kileam to cast silence to ensure the fight is unheard by Vapho or his three house guards. Melaria will then go upstairs to Vapho’s quarters and will get him erect and petrified. Solina & Melaria will then have Marv come bring the statue into Lady Kessindra’s bedchambers and the slaughter shall begin. Kessindra does want to have sex w/ Marv in front of Vapho, but I’m not sure if she wants to do that before killing the mistresses and bastards. A few things-
I want Veezle to die last. He killed Kessindra’s only child at the behest of her husband, and I want her to savor this kill. I think it would be grand to present her w/ the “Ol’ Phlegmy” knife Veezle carries (given to him by his dad).
I’m not sure who all needs to be at Vapho’s for the big fat kill, but I would ask that Axxitonis sit this one out as he is so conspicuous. We can discuss tomorrow night.
Snot is not a high priority, so if she is killed it’s no biggie. However, I would like you to attempt to bring her back alive (the witches could use extra help in setting up their shop).
THIS HAS TO HAPPEN FLAWLESSLY! Solina and I botched our first guild assignment, so if this gets fouled up, we face potential death. If we pull it off, we will then have the richest noble woman on our side, and many additional contracts and opportunity to get paid, bitches!!
I am happy to report, that with some clever improvisation and a few lucky rolls the plan listed above had gone off with a hitch (worth mentioning anyway).
Ok, well… there was one…
G’eldatar, Ennith, and Marv learn that “Sir Shiny” the guardian of the “Princess’s Tower” is an incredibly powerful sword-wielding iron golem left over from when the von Hrigers built the place, and is magically compelled do anything to keep “The Princess” safe and inside the tower. So while the three do manage to use the Black Shroud to confuse the golem and kidnap Yazmina, Velial, and Snot (who they later learn is named Paisy) and then escape from the tower, it doesn’t stop the golem from mindlessly pursuing after them. And while they did manage to relock the tower door with the golem inside, judging by how quickly the creature was chopping through the wooden door, they haden’t gained much of a head start.
Breathing creatures will eventually suffocate once inside a folded up Black Shroud, so it is only a matter of time before they have to let the humans placed within back out, and once they have, the golem will surely get a new magical position on Velial. The clock is ticking so the White Hydra opt to set Velial up in the front yard of the house as bait and turn the full might of the mercenary company on the golem when it finally crosses town to arrive at White Hydra Hall. But not before they learn the source of the girl’s crippling phobias is due to some cursed rings that Vapho had placed on their fingers. The time within the lightless folds of the Black Shroud had been downright horrific for the scotophobic Yazmina, and being staked out in the front yard of the mansion wasn’t doing wonders for Velial’s agoraphobia either… but there you go… the construct arrived as promptly as an iron golem can (double) move from Mage Town to the Plebian District…
Fortunately for them, it really did end up requiring the full might of all of the White Hydra Mercenary Company (including the new gargoyles) to take down the mighty Sir Shiny…
But, with all the assets now secured we pick up the next session with the delivery of the crates to the von Hriger Estate.
Blackspire Session 34 – The Big Fat Kill & The Dame to Kill For (Pt II)
A plan comes full circle. The trap is sprung. Trophies are expected to be collected…
Oh, they were so close…
The plan was going off almost perfectly, but Solina ended up making a single move too early, and Vapho became alerted to the intruders in his house before the final trap was sprung…
Marv and Rory d’Roark ended up in a brutal fist fight to the death (which the troll eventually won), and Vapho did his best to unleash the full might of his “third rate” wizardry (including setting off a Fireball indoors) on the White Hydra. However, the three terrified house guards were the only people to actually perish in that magical blaze…
But despite Vapho’s best efforts, they disarmed him of Youthdrinker, and then disrobed and secured him. Despite his predicament, Vapho was still at the mercies of his bizarre tastes, and so Melaria’s next bloody yet suggestive display was still enough to fulfill Lady Kessindra’s specific requirements before forever turning Vapho to stone, only to reopen his eyes once more once the room had been prepared for Lady Kessindra’s final revenge. The Gentle Repose coffin containing the corpse of young Fascia was positioned nearby to serve as a grim final reminder to Vapho as the White Hydra mercenaries began to take him apart piece by piece… each a petrified shard of perfect white marble chased with gold…
The von Hriger Estate now back in Kessindra’s control, the rest of the operation went exactly as horribly planned. Bloodied and completely satisfied, all that was needed was her final authorization of job complete and the assassins could submit the completed Sacred Invoice to the Guild’s Confessional Box. She signs dipping her pen in the blood still pooling on Vapho’s bedspread…
Paid in full for a job well done.
Blackspire Session 35 – That Green Bastard
With only 13 days until The Last Man Standing competition, the White Hydra mercenaries tie up loose ends…
The biggest gladiatorial fight of Marv’s career thus far, the Last Man Standing, is fast approaching and Maelik Kileam starts to learn who the other competitors in the battle are most likely to be. Nearly every gangster boss and mercenary guild has a fighter they could enter into the fight, though the doppleganger managed to narrow the list down some… MKKM also sends Liff out into the city to visit every tavern in the surrounding neighborhoods and spread the word about the undefeated Son of Vram.
As a bonus for their assistance, Lady Kessindra has given the White Hydra Mercenary Company the keys to the Ghellen von Hriger tower in Mage Town (the front door needing to be replaced notwithstanding). Within the tower they find a number of treasures, including a few more phobia rings, and a wealth of storybooks, including a number which they are able to determine were stolen from the College of Necromancy’s Library by Vollo Harkadies for his brother Vapho. Also, the young whipping-girl Paisy they rescued from that tower decides “if everyone is a character in a fairy-tale, then she wants to be the Evil Sorceress Queen” and agrees to join the hags’ coven at White Hydra Hall.
The hags also provide the White Hydra with their first month’s “rent”. They’ve installed a magical lamp-post just outside the front gate. Upon command its ever-glowing lantern will detach itself and follow the user up to the front door of the manor (or up to a mile into the city) before returning to the post. It also sports one of a set of sympathetic chimes, the second identical set to be hung inside the mansion. Striking one chime will cause its twin to also sound, and thus communication between the gargoyles at the gate and gargoyles in the house can be made.
The White Hydra also answer an invitation extended to G’eldatar by his classmate Hanjat, a vampire in service to one of the Vampire Princes named Caliph Rahzeen. Rahzeen dwells in one of the many castles that make up the Black Palace, home to the Vampire Princes and nestled deep within the Necropolis. Hanjat’s coach is speedy enough (and Hanjat is familiar enough with the sequence) that they are able to pass unharmed through the viciously trapped Gate of Blades, which aside from the notorious Plaza of Idols, is the only public entrance through the wall separating Mage Town from the Necropolis.
Rahzeen is a gracious host, though the assassins clearly recognize The Jannisary from the Order of the Hidden Crescent who is on hand to provide security. The Caliph explains the vampire assassin’s scimitar must claim a life every day, and it has not yet been fed so to speak. He lets that serve as a reminder of guest behavior as he takes G’eldatar aside to discuss the business he actually brought him for.
Caliph Rahzeen expresses understanding of G’eldatar’s estrangement from the Matriarch of his line, and professes a belief that it is not right the alchemist’s talents in the field of drug production are not more widely recognized by his House. He then introduces G’eldatar to a fairly new narcotic his people are in the process of developing called Necroine, or more commonly by its street name the Grey Dream. The effects of this drug actually arrest the body’s motor function for a number of hours and for the course of the high the subject effectively becomes an actual zombie… their conscious mind slipping into the Grey Dream (the state of consciousness for mindless undead) and they are easily controllable in this hypnotic state. Rahzeen’s problem is the drug works too well (subjects typically become hard-core addicts after just one or two uses), and after just a few uses the effects wear off too quickly.
He gives G’eldatar a few raw samples of the drug, and engages him to find a way to refine the concoction so that its effects are just as effective, but not quite so potent (read: expensive). The Caliph will expect results in the next few months…
Additionally, Melaria pays Megali and Jytus a visit at the Gorgatorium to discuss “Lady Goldenvein’s” rising place among their people (and that her descent from Cyrogenese might mean more than she’d first think). As only 1-in-10 medusa are born a maedar (male) the Gorgonate has long taken an interest in genealogy and eugenics. Most males produce offspring with many females throughout their lives, and it seems Melaria, Megali, and Jytus all share a father named Cyrogonese. This may go some way to explain the bizarre nature of Melaria’s unique petrification victims (white marble chased with gold). This concept bears further investigation and so they want to keep her close.
However, on the way back to White Hydra Hall the Lolthian conjoined-twin sisters Ix’Peth & Lolthis “happen to bump into her” on the street and offer her a ride home in their carriage atop the back of a colossal Ogre Spider. On the way they remind her that the White Hydra have yet to throw their support in with either the Sellsword Fraternity or the Mercenary Consortium. Before dropping Melaria off at the front gate, the sisters promise her a place in the Consortium, but they do expect to hear of her decision one way or the other soon…
In the meantime Maelik Kileam decides that perhaps bounty hunter work would be a good way for the Company to supplement its income. So he heads up north across the storied Dragon Bridge that spans the fiery Chasm to the neighborhood of Dragon Town. There he finds a local bounty hunter tavern call The Ninth Bell and learns that new bounties get posted in The Dungeon every day at 10th Bell (hence the name of the joint).
The Dungeon is a vast subterranean complex run by the Aterpensia (the Black Dragon Flight) and serves as the city’s only real functioning jail, though it is really little more than a revolving door of paying out bounties for prisoners collected, and releasing them again when/if their posted bail is paid. Maelik Kileam spends some time investigating the hundreds of Wanted posters that paper the waiting room of The Dungeon, and pays for copies of a few choice ones to be illuminated by employees.
He also happens to notice that a bail has finally been set for Melaria’s sister Virpia (whose petrifying eyes appear to have been harvested to pay her back-taxes) but opts to leave that bill hanging where he found it.
Melaria also finally wraps up some Mercenary business and waits in line for hours at the Consortium of Commerce’s Magical Trade Registry. She ultimatelsy must pay (bribe) her way into getting all the magical items the White Hydra have claimed of late by right of conquest registered in the company’s name. Enough crowns in the right claws gets you anything in Blackspire, and so she is the first PC to meet Skyrm, a purple dragon (red and blue parents) who signs off on every registered item, inscribing each document with his signature, burned through each page with his mysterious laser-like breath weapon.
This won’t be the last time the White Hydra will need to register magical items, but they do learn that most people hire two “professional line-waiters” when they have business at the Consortium… one to hold your place in line, and the other to come get you when it’s almost your turn…
(NOTE: You may chuckle at the name, but I came up with the character of a purple dragon named “Skyrm” something like fifteen years ago, give or take… so go figure…)
Blackspire Session 36 – Farewells and Introductions
Fascia Harkadies is laid to rest.
The White Hydra answer the invitation to attend the funeral of Fascia Harkadies. He is laid to rest in the family plot on the von Hriger Estate near such illustrious ancestors as Elsa von Hriger the famous fashion designer (now part of the d’Alain line) and Helmut von Hriger, hero of the Great War. Aside from a few odd social acquaintances of Lady Kessindra, the only actual family members who are in attendance are the mysterious Baron von Mindflame and sour Vollo Harkadies (who seems much more interested in staring at the funeral’s attendees through his monocle than paying any attention towards the actual corpse of his nephew being laid to rest). The Black Pope is also on hand to give the final benediction, though in reality it is more of an enchantment said over the grave to keep Fascia’s remains from being reanimated…
Nonetheless, the White Hydra have a very happy client in Lady Kessindra, who not only contracts continuous round-the-clock bodyguard service from them, but they now have a contract to be her official escort through the Necropolis to the Black Palace this Necrodius to attend the yearly seven-day-long affair hosted by Prince Justinius himself, the infamous Prince’s Ball.
However, the PCs have also decided it is time to try an experiment they’ve debated for some time now. The Beholder nobleman that crowns Virpia’s fountain construction would appear to be a character of some influence before his petrification. Virpia’s journal reveals she lured Count Zarathusa into a mirrored room on the pretext of examining the Black Shroud, and when he hovered overtop the Portable Hole, she unveiled herself in a way where the Count was unable to avoid her petrifying gaze. However, according to her notes in a book on Beholders they also found in her secret study, it seems that Virpia used the Stone Salve to de-petrify Zarathusa’s tympanic membranes (his “ears”) leaving him able to hear, but otherwise impotent. Likely “awakening” any of the eyes of a Beholder was a risky prospect (plus it would have messed with the whole “turn-his-eyestalks-into-fountain-spouts” motif she was going for…).
Anyway, G’eldatar consults these same anatomy books, and using a combination of Virpia’s Gloves of Stone Shape (and with a whole stack of Cure Critical syringes at the ready) the Lothian plans first to mold the Beholder back into a generally correct shape, then apply Stone Salve to the petrified body and upon his restoration hope the Eye Tyrant wouldn’t immediately try to kill them all before G’eldatar could magically heal him up enough to not immediately die from his multiple mutilations… They do their best to explain this plan to Zarathusa’s beetle-ravaged ears.
It seems luck was with them, for while Count Zarathusa’s transformation from stone to flesh was a horrific and bloody one (with a few random involuntary eye rays shot off) G’eldatar’s healing formulas were enough to keep the Beholder alive long enough for more healing to be administrated and eventually return him to his former self, fully healed.
Count Zarathusa seems to somehow remember them from a crazy dream he had while petrified, where he imagined they were all animals and he was the floating king of a weird pumpkin patch. The Mother Gristle’s situation established, he also feels indebted to them for his freedom and rebirth, and so agrees to lend to the White Hydra Mercenaries his considerable expertise in many fields both legal and extra-legal in the great city of Blackspire…
For an equal share in the Company of course…
Blackspire Session 37 – Thus Spake Zarathusa
The White Hydra continues to expand as our mercenaries seek to balance their ledgers.
Count Zarathusa reveals he used to deal in “special acquisitions” and could get his clients all matter of exotic items (especially rare and exotic beasts) and eventually even rose to be Captain of the Southern Gate of the Aeger’s Square neighborhood (which catapulted him to a higher rank among his kind). But eventually he was caught with some goods that some might construe as “contraband” and so his enemies within his own Grythant Hive conspired against him and as punishment he had to suffer the severing of his three most powerful eye-stalks: Death Ray, Disintegration, and Petrification (losing the last of which is what made him no longer immune to that effect). Virpia turning him to stone may have been the last part of their plan, or she may have just sensed the opportunity to petrify a subject she was looking for with a low retribution risk…
Zarathusa suspects there are still likely a few members of his former Ka-tet (a Beholder term which roughly translates to “sacred circle of trust”) that might still be loyal to him if the White Hydra can locate them (he believes they should make the Count’s return a secret for now) and he also reveals a few people who still owe him money (like Mortimer Stitchwell) as well as a few people he still owes money to (like Daki Goldtooth). The allies he suggests contacting first are:
- Krigus Half-titan – a half-giant who works security for the Black Market of Pickett’s Ward. He was entrusted with Zarathusa’s Bank Key (Blood-Bound, so only he can use it), which should allow the beholder access what remains of his fortune.
- Sebastien Scrudge – assuming the old man is still alive, he was one of the craftier bankers Zarathusa even encountered, and was key in moving much of his finances around to avoid certain types of scrutiny. He (or someone like him) will be essential to access certain accounts of Zarathusa’s within the Bank.
- “Cap’n” Rogar Redbeard – a dwarf ferryboat pilot of what is essentially a glorified raft that he has named “The Buried Treasure”. Rogar and his sons were instrumental to Zarathusa when moving certain sensitive merchandise into Aegar’s Square from Deviant’s Isle (the only section of the city where the law of Blackspire officially does not extend, and is fought over by rival Pirate and Thieves Guilds).
- Vishnia D’Vosh – a Lolthian Beastmaster and captain of her own ship “Vishnia’s Web”, she and her crew sail the world, capture and return with all manner of bizarre creatures they discover (or know where to hunt) for sale. Zarathusa often served as an intermediary for sales of many of these beasts to people like Stitchwell, Yegor Graithe, Count Aggorou, or The Celebrant. Zarathusa technically got petrified before he could pay Vishnia for her last delivery, but assuming they can square things with her, and they are still interested in starting a ludus/the Bloodsport game, having access to a few powerful monsters that can win some fights couldn’t hurt their coin-purses.
The White Hydra Mercenary Company also plays host to their first round of “try outs” to start to fill out their ranks with more mercenaries and potential gladiators for the ludus. Marv’s popularity alone draws a huge crowd of hopefuls. There are humans, demi-humans, and humanoids of every stripe, as well as a handful of ogres and minotaurs, and dozens and dozens of goblins (some of which have stolen a lamp post and brought it to Marv as a gift).
They spend the afternoon culling the heard of the unskilled (and the unhinged) and they discuss which of the hopefuls they want to invite back for a second day of testing…
Blackspire Session 38 – (De)Merits of a Good Education
Meanwhile… in the past…
We had to do a little bit of ret-conning (or “Tarantino Time” as my old gaming pals would put it) to get the timing of the next two sessions to work, but as it was a self-contained adventure (and so long as no one died) it shouldn’t have been a problem to rewind the clock for the PCs a bit…
Anyway, G’eldatar and Stormtooth have finally finished the easy part of their Detention, and have completed examining, sorting, and cataloging the usable, fixable, and “broken-beyond-reasonable-repair” magic items that were damaged during the Dragon Engine incident. It is now their duty to dispose of the broken items by dumping them into the fiery Cleft… and as certain city laws prohibit the school from transporting items like that through the city streets, it falls to the two of them to escort their wagon-full of defunct items through the bowels of the infamous Underschool and destroy them from there. The Underschool carries a notorious reputation (countless students have met a gristly end there) and it is even rumored to be the one area of the College of Necromancy where Mr. Gnemysyst and his shadows cannot (or will not) go…
Once a bustling area of the College, this subterranean wing has fallen into disrepair over the past few centuries, and now is little more than a dumping ground for the various (and often dangerous) waste products produced by the College’s various disciplines of study. However, the area (near a place known as the Rock of Curses) does allow access to a promontory that juts out directly over top the bubbling lava of the Cleft far below, and as such is the most common place the College of Necromancy goes to dispose of unwanted material.
The blue dragon and the dark elf are hardly the first students of the College to pull this sort of Detention duty in the Underschool, and as it’s also not uncommon for those same students to hire a few mercenaries to help them “pass” the assignment, G’eldatar and Stormtooth decide they will follow suit and engage the other White Hydra Mercenaries for help.
There’s one last catch however, Benjamin Raspbone lets them know the school has a second wagon they also need their party to take into the Underschool. It contains the remains of the failed Dragon Engine, and while the Solve Coagula has put a lot of pressure on Raspbone to destroy the thing, the old wight isn’t quite ready to give up on Messelmar’s work just yet… That means Raspbone expects G’eldatar to find some “safe” place in the Underschool to stash the Dragon Engine for the time being, and then keep his mouth shut about it.
Then, as if on cue, the wagon with the Dragon Engine is delivered, and it is accompanied by none other than Vollo Harkadies, the member of the Solve Coagula who has graciously volunteered to oversee this phase of the students’ Detention and ensure that all the factors of the punishment are completed in full. To do this, he uses his magic monocle to “pull out” his own eyeball… which will magically float disembodied along behind them and observe their behavior. Great…
As they begin to walk down the steps of The Descent, they see written on the stairwell walls the names and dates of past students to have also passed this way to the Underschool over the centuries (and our two necromancers add their own). At the foot of The Descent beneath a lonely oil lantern on a hook they see a roughly drawn map of the Underschool painted on the wall, which has been added to by a great many different students over the years. When G’eldatar claims the bulls-eye lantern, he sees written on the wall behind it are scrawled the words “just leave the lantern – it only makes you a target”. As all the members of the White Hydra have Darkvision, the dark elf opts to put the lantern back where he found it.
The dungeon crawl that followed stretched on for two sessions, and below were some of the highlights.
- Entrance – at the foot of The Descent they cross a line painted on the walls and floor with “Gnemysyst” on one side and “UN-Safe” on the other. Infested with (freezing) Brown Mold and Yellow Mold spores, they find the main entrance rooms heavily gone through, ransacked and seemingly abandoned… until they surprise two Mongelman children at play. The “bird-boy” Grush flees at the first sight of them, but the PCs manage to befriend the young girl Beedle. The female Mongleman sports a number of hideous mutations, including tusks, a rat tail, and her left arm is a tentacle that reaches to the ground and ends in a hideous crab-like claw. Beedle agrees to help guide them through the Underschool if they’re going to “Trade Rock”. They claim they are.
- The Grand Lodge – once a private Initiation chamber for the College it has long since been abandoned. Now it is haunted by a deadly trio of shrieking Lolthian Banshees… and Maelik Kileam could not help but recognize the name “Vrinn” from the first edition of “Damon II”. Beedle claims she knows a safe way through, but her childlike logic isn’t very reassuring, so the White Hydra opt to take the long way ’round.
- Old Arboretum – still illuminated by a few flickering Continual Light stones, what was once the school’s magical greenhouse is now a flooded swamp, filled with a poisonous Green Slime. At least one mutated Froghemoth lurks beneath the surface waiting for prey (as Maelik Kileam learned to his chagrin). They decide to try their luck in the former Laboratories rather than risk trusting the Mold infested makeshift raft of old tables and barrels (and the monsters beneath of course).
- Arcane Dump & Sewer Hack – A great number of decrepit waste pipes deposit the alchemical, biological, and industrial run-off produced by the myriad number of College disciplines, and it all collects here in a stagnant mire before slowly draining into the sewer system of Greater Blackspire. A great many pipes are damaged beyond repair, the place is infested with dire cockroach nests, and the rusty crane that might have once been useful looks to have been stripped for parts. And while a rickety system of bridges and catwalks can keep travelers above the magical soup (and spare them the random effects of exposure) the half dozen Alchemical Zombies reanimated by the gunk don’t make crossing easy…
- The Eaters of Magic – this turns out to be a squad of Alchemy Golems (machines powered by the classic “brain-in-a-jar”) that wander and constantly scan the old Laboratory area with Detect Magic. Any magical object that they detect they attempt to grind up and consume. Unfortunately they will violently attack any creature detecting for magic (or are otherwise escorting such items). This doesn’t stop Solina, who in vampire mist form craftily leads Vollo’s floating eyeball right into the field of vision of one of the golems… which is subsequently destroyed by a direct hit from one of the creature’s incendiary bombs. So much for their chaperone… While they are tempted to feed the broken items to the golems, the necromancers can’t risk losing the Dragon Engine, so Beedle suggests they cover their stuff with sheets of lead foil (which she helps them find) and then the Eaters of Magic won’t see them.
- The Black Vault – purportedly the place where the most powerful and dangerous artifacts of the College are said to be kept. More than one diabolical gift from the Dread Emperor is said to reside behind the locked and warded door. That doesn’t stop the PCs from checking out the puzzle inscribed in the door of the vault.
- The Mongrel Maze – once a sprawling expanse of pits and cages where the most vile and dangerous creatures in the school’s possession were kept (and cross-bred) this place in now a labyrinth of rubble, debris, and other detritus piled high into precarious fortifications, where the malformed descendants of the children of the school’s various failed Eugenics programs now make their home. On the wall near the entrance to this place (or towards a hallway leading away) are two arrows, one pointing to “SURTIN DETH” and the other to “TRADE” which has been scratched out and replaced with “TRAP!”. Nonetheless, Beedle leads them that way into the Maze, where apparently every few yards is yet another booby-trap to avoid. At “Trade Rock” they stand before yet another “eye-in-a-labyrinth” symbol (which Beedle identifies as the mark of Shaman Yakko). There they meet more of Beedle’s people, and each Mongrelman (true to its kind) is a unique amalgamation of any number of various combinations of men and beasts. They are interested in their broken items (they make a trade of repairing the “un-repairable” and selling them on the Black Market) but thanks to a “diplomatic misunderstanding” the talks quickly turned violent, and the PCs were forced to flee the Mongrel Maze back the way they came (leaving Beedle behind).
- The Hall of Webs – Before talks were cut short, one of the things the Mongrelmen offered to trade for is very valuable Spider Silk, which they harvest from the giant spiders that nest (in vast numbers) nearby. The PCs don’t end up having occasion to visit this part of the Underschool, but the notation of the green dragon necromancer Vilescale’s lair possibly being nearby did not go unnoticed (or un-lamented) by Stormtooth.
- The Machine – down a long hallway along the far wall of the chamber they discover another labyrinth made of discarded trash and other debris piled high, with long corridors dug though as if by some large object that was pacing back and forth though it over the centuries, and digging itself something of a miniature maze (complete with a number of odd twists and turns that end in pointless dead-ends). Lurking beneath a pile of trash at the bend of an important turn, G’eldatar learns why past students have warned that “The Machine Hunts Here”. Constructed completely out of adamantine by an imagination that could only been deemed “diabolical” the Demonic Graft Engine lashes out with a bladed, whip-like “tongue” and yanks the dark elf inside before anyone can save him. In a matter of literal seconds, dozens of razor sharp tools flay open G’eldatar’s left hand, yank out his nails, and remove and replace most of the major muscles, tendons, and bones of his hand. As his palm is being stitched up he can make out the features of a new grinning, toothy skull now in the center of his hand. The dark elf is “ejected” out the back of the machine and already the contraption is seeking a new victim, so Melaria decides to willingly offer herself to The Machine so the rest of the party can make their escape, and for her horrific pains she is gifted a new, stronger right arm that now ends in razor sharp claws…
- Dire Bats – fleeing the Machine, they almost spook a nest of Dire Bats in a nearby fissure which were resting between feedings. Fortunately Jezebel’s own bat Lucifer is able to calm the swarm down before anything serious happens (or they alert something else to their presence).
- The Rock of Curses – despite its fearsome name, the Underschool landmark is nothing more than a mundane boulder. It takes its name from the countless names that have been angrily scrawled on its surface by many a past student… likely the names of the professors or classmates the authors blame for their own Detention duty (the name “Raspbone” appears more than once for instance). And indeed, nearby is a long hallway which empties out onto a large stone promontory which juts out into the massive 100 foot deed Chasm over exposed, roiling magma. Finally..!
Blackspire Session 39 – Cutting (De)Tension (With A Knife)
The Underschool awaits…
After depositing their “precious trash” into the fiery Cleft, Stormtooth is able to fly out and take note of where this place is relative to the city, so can now find his way here directly from the outside if necessary.
Now, while at rest, the eyes and mouth of the face on G’eldatar’s hand hides away in the creases of his palm. But when awakened, the face’s eyes and mouth glow with an eerie blue light, and his fingernails (which are now a bright blue as well) ignite in spouts of bright blue flame. It introduces itself as a Manus Glorium and the dark elf decides to name it “Beezlebub”. The hand can even detach itself from his wrist and float around freely to act as his familiar. As well as granting him the power of Mage Hand, it (true to its nature) also grants him spells of Knock, Hold Person, and Dimension Door.
As for the Dragon Engine, the PCs find another fortification of Mongrelmen, and this time their talks go better and they are able to speak with one of their leaders, an old witch woman riding a dire cockroach they call “Gran’ma”. While ultimately these talks necessitate a second visit to the Underschool (this time accompanied by Benjamin Raspbone himself) ultimately the Mongrelmen agree to store the Dragon Engine, and even promise to get the thing up and working… if the College will agree to take some responsibility for its “children”. They want to be able to enroll some of their most talented people in the school to get a real education, and the first student they want the necromancers to take on is the young and talented girl Beedle.
Raspbone agrees… to make her G’eldatar’s problem.
Meanwhile, back in the world… Maelik Kileam begins his research for his co-project with Diabynea for the Drama Symposium at the next Gorgonate gathering. While MKKM is not actually a medusa, she posits if he uses his “Character Alchemist” skills, he’ll be able to impersonate one impeccably enough that he’ll basically “be one”. She proposes the doppleganger get to know each of the eight remaining Muses (herself included) well enough to be able to believably impersonate them. To achieve this level of intimacy actually requires MKKM to successfully Detect Thoughts on his subject. Once he’s done this for all eight, they’ll then put on a great farcical show at the Symposium where one by one they’ll satirize each Muse (like a roast) with an original poem that Maelik Kileam will also co-write and perform “as them”. It should be a hoot…
He knocks some of the easy ones (like Diabynea and Umberculo) of his list first, but takes a real risk when he visits Nürexia. He catches her inspiring performance at an officer’s bar in the High City, frequented by many high ranking members of the Red Dragon Army (including many red dragons), and afterwards using a bit of guile and then by impersonating one of the staff, he manages to surprise the medusa in her backstage dressing room. Fortunately, the fellow bard (who also knew of his celebrity) found his intrusion more boldly charming than downright impertinent, and after a bit of talk not only did MKKM get what he needed (or end up a statue), he got some good gossip on some of the other Muses’ “potentially satirize-able” traits as well. He decides to visit Professor Namia next, and that Nürexia suggests that doing so at her workplace is his best bet to get some good dirt on her.
Blackspire Session 40 – A Little Churchin’ Up…
Stormtooth attends service in the Temple of Tiamat, Maelik Kileam interviews Professor Namia, and the White Hydra holds their call back try-outs.
As he promised his father, Stormtooth starts his weekly visits to the Church of Tiamat. By far one of the most impressive structures in the whole of the city of Blackspire, it is like five great cathedrals attached to a sixth that is larger still than all the others put together. There are entrances and landing platforms going into these structures sizable enough to accommodate the largest great wyrm dragon. Within, all the loyal Tiamatians gather in one of the wings of the Church dedicated to the Dragon Flight they are a part of (or otherwise serve), but all are beneath the great statute of Tiamat that absolutely dominates the space. Larger than any dragon (some claim the representation is life-sized) the statue of the goddess fills the chamber, her four “loyal” heads attacking the neck of her white one.
The largest chamber is bisected by a tremendous fiery gorge which divides the high priests and priestesses from the lower ones and the rest of the congregation. This is basically the only time Stormtooth sees almost all the dragons of the city gathered together in one place (aside from the Dracopolis, it’s the only place that could hold them all) but particularly the great wyrm dragons of each of the Flights are present. Together they represent draconic power in Blackspire.
Caéraco – the Blue Dragon Flight represents the combined financial might of the dragons, and through the Bank of Blackspire they control the city’s financial health. The three blue great wyrms, together with the green Ghepentanis, set the price of an ounce of gold in the Blackspirian marketplace.
- Dramaxxis, called “Stormhorn” – the Lord of the Treasury is the one ultimately responsible for the security of the Bank (and all valuables kept within). He is the eldest and most feared of the great wyrm blues.
- Akultonis, called “Blue Thunder” – the Keeper of the Molds is responsible for all coin minted in the city (and to what extent) each year.
- Zurókul, called “Clawbolt” – the Lord of Lendings ultimately oversees all the borrowing, usury, and investments of the Bank. He is also Stormtooth’s Twice-Father by his fourth mate (who is also his eldest daughter by his third mate). For more on Stormtooth’s family see his origin story.
Aterpensia – the Black Dragon Flight represents (for lack of a better description) the combined bureaucratic might of the dragons, and through the Hall of Records and The Dungeon they control much of the flow of governmental monies. They oversee the official record-keeping that many other governmental organizations rely on, as well as the bails, bounties, fines, and especially taxation of the Blackspirian citizenry.
- Obfuscallus, called “Shadow Wing” – the Headcounter Magus is ultimately responsible for the operations of (the revolving door that is) The Dungeon.
- Ácerödivok, called “Darkscale” – the Grand Levytar of the Hall of Records is ultimately responsible for all official record-keeping of property and taxation. It is his dreaded tax-collectors who go forth into the city each Harvest to collect the city’s due…
Viripentis – the Green Dragon Flight represents the combined might of the knowledge and craft (both magical and mundane) of the dragons. The two green great wyrms are a mated pair (of nosy great-grandparents) and from the University of Blackspire they control one of the most important centers of learning in the city.
- Valkrovis, called “Cloudkill” – is the Dean of the University of Blackspire and is widely agreed to be one of the most powerful wizards of any stripe in the city.
- Ghepentanis, called “Greentooth” – the Guildmistress seems to have a claw in all organized guild structures in the city, including the Three Guilds of Fleshcraft. Less so with the dwarven-centric Fraternity of Guilds.
Ruberym – the Red Dragon Flight represents the combined divine and military might of the dragons, to which there can be no comparison. The Red Dragon Army comprises the central backbone of the Blackspirian Armed Forces, but the Ruberym also shape the spiritual direction of the Church of Tiamat and the goddess’s followers.
- Vhrik’Nalsis, called “Queenspeaker” – the High-Priestess of Tiamat’s word is undisputed among dragons, and it is she who oversees the most important religious ceremonies for their goddess’s faithful.
- Malfaerécor, called “Flameword” (or “He Whose Word is Flame”)– Tiamat’s Chosen is the eldest great wyrm dragon in the city, and he is so large and ancient he may have reached a new dragon age category altogether. Considered by many (even non-dragons) to be the greatest hero of the Dark Alliance, he was (in some cases single-handedly) responsible for many of the victorious battles during the Great War. Now, rarely seen even on high holidays, Malfaerécor slumbers in his great chambers beneath the fiery gorge that bisects the Church, lounging in the “Horde of a Thousand Emperors” made of the golden tributes looted from many countless kingdoms and laid at the feet of the Apex Predator by all the grateful dragon Flights each year.
Dracalbus – the White Dragon Flight is visibly absent from the city, and their wing of the Church are instead filled up by countless Kobolds, Talos, Humans, and other creatures seeking to worship and gain the favor of Tiamat, but who aren’t otherwise associated with one of the other Flights and given a seat of higher honor on one of the tiers beneath their draconic patron’s feet.
Church is a long (at least five hours) and boring affair where many priests and priestesses take turns reading from one of the Five Books of Tiamat, or overseeing things like naming ceremonies for wyrmlings turning 6 years old (reaching the very young category). Stormtooth does have occasion to see Professor Namia among other priestesses perform service.
Thus, Maelik Kileam must wait for the services to get out to conduct his “interview”, and when the opportunity presents itself surprises Professor Namia on her way across the plaza of Blackspire University. She knows exactly why he’s there, and in the interest of him giving an accurate portrayal (and not wanting to be thought of as a spoil-sport) agrees to a short conversation in her office before her next class. However, the professor is called away for a few minutes in the middle of their talks, which gives MKKM the opportunity to pour through the research papers she’d had out on her desk. Some of what he found in her writings concerning dragon biology/genealogy could be considered quite controversial, and doubly-so for a cleric of Tiamat.
He only had a few minutes to make a copy, which I gave him the course of my smoke break to accomplish… and which the player managed to do, so MKKM got away with it.
What he decides to do with that info remained to be seen.
And the White Hydra holds their final round of “cuts” and ultimately decides on the new members they will accept into their mercenary company. Aside from a handful of ogres and other large humanoids to round out their muscle, here are the recruits they decided to accept:
- The Lamp-Post Boyz – comprised primarily of fanatical goblin fans of Marv the gladiator, they identify each other by the crude lamp-post designs they’ve painted on their clothing, and the White Hydra were able to get them to cooperate together enough to be valuable.
- Wuhu & Yahu – described by Ahoo Goodfinder himself as “his idiot cousins” (they killed their brother Yuhu because the math of splitting a slice of bacon three ways was getting too hard) these former Daki employees end up sort of leading the Lamp-Post Boyz in time.
- Kaliah – a beautiful courtesan and self-confessed professional spy, she agrees to work for the White Hydra only in non-combative roles.
- Stormdrain – a homeless gargoyle born in the sewers of Blackspire whose Birthstone was destroyed. He is an excellent subterranean scout.
- Akana – yes, the half-bubear barbarian has swallowed her pride, and with the destruction of the Onizuka Gang she decides to come work for its destroyers. She is without a doubt the most powerful warrior among their recruits, even though she’s had to replace her Vril greatsword with just an “ordinary” masterwork one (but still more appropriately sized for an ogre or giant).
- Jack Cobblestones – a young swashbuckling tout (a professional city guide) who wants to use his expertise to earn fortune and glory.
- Brother Hiss – a Talos necromancer (Novitiate 3rd Class) who agrees to assist G’eldatar and Stormtooth privately as well. He also agrees to handle all their magical registrations with the Consortium of Commerce, and that was enough for Melaria, he’s hired…
- Squire Nolan Green-Greaves – a heavily armored half-orc who admits to being a former member of the Knights of Pickett’s Ward (but doesn’t reveal the nature of that falling out).
- Desmond Crownseeker – a tough-as-nails “mercenary’s mercenary”. Curt, gruff, but decent enough with the sword to hold his own. As long as he gets paid well, Desmond’s not likely to complain about much.
- Drammis – a half-blue dragon minotaur who hails from a place called the Kaiban Basin, a frigid desert far from the city of Blackspire. He used to work as a security guard during the Lows for the Bank of Blackspire, but found endlessly walking the empty halls boring and sought out the mercenary’s life.
- Sir Boniface – a skeletal champion who has encased the surface of all his bones (except the oval of his face) with thick black iron, and has bolted on additional armor pieces (like his helmet and spaldurs). He does not eat, does not sleep, and can keep guard in a singular area indefinitely. He’s also quite deadly with a two-handed sword…
- Kano Kensai – a bizarre nodachi-wielding swordsman from Jade Town whose hair is dyed yellow and blue and whose whole crazy look is completed by a 3rd eye tattooed on his forehead. He’d been studying the sword so that he could one day kill Rorco Horntempled, who he blames for the murder of his parents… but the PCs beat him to it. Now he’s decided to serve the people who stole his revenge from him. “By day” he covers his hair and forehead with a bandana, and appears to be merely the humble proprietor of his family’s Magic Noodle Cart (a street cart that magically produces the raw materials of fresh seafood, rice, ramen, etc… enough to feed 100 customers a day). G’eldatar is also able to determine there’s something in the water the cart uses that makes its products mildly addictive. As such, Kano Kensai has many loyal customers, and can always move about Jade Town with relative ease and collect gossip from the locals… as well as throw down when he needs to!
Unfortunately, Maelik Kileam was a little busy with Professor Namia today, and was unavailable to lend his Detect Thoughts abilities to the recruit vetting process… as such a few rivals’ spies may have slipped through the cracks…
Recently young Beedle had aced her Admission testing to join the College of Necromancy, and as Legionnight rolls around she prepares for the ceremony to become an Initiate. It is a proud day for the White Hydra as they send the young girl off to necromancer’s school in a crisp new black robe and her copy of Via Occultis tucked under her claw-tipped tentacle. As might be expected, there is not a very warm reception from most of the College concerning a Mongrelman joining their ranks, but Beedle doesn’t seem to notice (or mind) and proudly takes her place in the last seat at the end of the farthest table.
Also, G’eldatar receives even more pressure (than usual) to get his Reputation within the College of Necromancy to be more in line with his actual skills. This is essential for the dark elf to have any hope of advancing higher up the school’s hierarchy, and the opposite of Stormtooth’s problem, whose Reputation at this point far exceeds his actual magical skill. One of the easiest ways to gain credibility is to join the Dueling Club within the School of Necromancy. There they will learn the formal rules of Dueling within the College, and hopefully rack up a few victories in practice competitions that will in turn reflect on their Reputation.
They decide to primarily fight as a team in the Pairs competitions, and seek out the various Dueling Masters of the school. The Violet Flame refuses to consider them as a team, as Stormtooth’s magical abilities are way too far behind G’eldatar’s, but Sir Janus Vei sees an awful lot of martial victory potential in the blue dragon, and agrees to take them both on.
Once testing their abilities somewhat, he confers with The Violet Flame and they arrange an appropriate pair of necromancers to face off against them in their first practice duel: Tatyana Pickett and Vidal Thuula, two formidable necromancers of similar rank to G’eldatar, each from powerful noble families, and both with a number of Pairs victories already under their belt…
Roll for initiative…