Blackspire Session 41 – Foolish School Rules of Ghoulish Duels
Wherein the Violet Flame puts Tatyana Pickett and Vidal Thuula up against G’eldatar and Stormtooth in their first Dueling Club competition.
G’eldatar and Stormtooth face off against their opponents in their first ever bout for the Dueling Club. We also made sure to review the review the rules of a Formal Duel within the College (which you can read here: Rules: College of Necromancy Formal Duels) and settled on the Terms.
A viscous magical battle ensued, but ultimately their opponents triumphed when Tatyana (using a Hero Point to overcome his paralysis immunity for one round) cast Hold Monster on Stormtooth mid-flight causing him to to fall out of the air and touch ground off the Cruxix.
While G’eldatar was able to ransom back his Kavaloshi blade he lost by “Right of Conquest”, Stormtooth (somewhat embarrassingly) could not afford to ransom back the mancatcher tail piece he was forced to surrender. Placards bearing each of their names are added to the Hall of Accolades, each sporting a single white token of Defeat.
Meanwhile, the Crimson Shadow indicates to Melaria and Solina that they should look into ways to increase their value to the Order of the Dark Mirror. He suggests one of them join another assassin’s Order within the Guild of Silence, and the other join one of the other of the Three Guilds of Fleshcraft, either the torturers of the Guild of Secrets or the executioners of the Guild of Justice.
While Melaria visits Last Kiss to begin to make some inroads for herself towards joining the assassins of the Lifequencher’s Union, Solina begins to learn about the other Orders that comprise the two sister Guilds.
The Guild of Secrets
- The Verivextor Brotherhood – this notorious order is also a member of the Guild of Justice, as in addition to being efficient torturers, they have the added authority to also execute their “clients” when questioning is complete. This is traditionally done in a public manner by a burning at the stake, as the majority of the Verivextor’s charges are those accused of political sedition or even heresy… and the city demands examples always be made. This makes them the standard Order engaged by both the Incolumníta (the Illithid Inquisition) and the NOSFERAT (the vampire secret police). The Brotherhood themselves seem to observe a vow of silence (it is those who engage their services who do the actual questioning), and wear uniform hooded red robes and golden masks. Additionally their membership seems to exclusively comprise members of the Cult of the Spire.
- The Black Chalice – made up primarily by necromancers, this Order focuses on the cultivation of the substance Agony (magically distilled Pain) which among other applications is often used to create “Loosh”, a black wine-like substance which can have an intoxicating effect on undead creatures. They also have strong ties to the Mors Forte assassins.
- The Bloody Coudés – considering themselves the “Gentleman’s Order” within the Guild of Secrets, these torturers focus on quickly and efficiently extracting important military or tactical intelligence from their charges. As such it is not unusual to find a cadre of Bloody Coudés as part of a permanent military detachment for some aspect of the Blackspirian Armed Forces (especially the Red Dragon Army). They also boast a large number of dopplegangers with finely tuned Detect Thoughts abilities.
- The Dog-Faced Gods – run by a gnoll mummy named Cesubris, this Order specializes in convincing their victims that they’ve died and gone to Hell, and then torture them to “extract their sins”. It seems certain members of this group even feel like they’re doing a little more than just “pretending” and they also seem to have some ancient cult-like ties to the Lifequencer’s Union. It is also not unusual for them to occasionally enlist the aid of the Megalochists, as the two Orders are closely tied.
- The Megalochists – the most depraved sadists of the Guild, even when compared to the other Orders, the Megalochists are not interested in extracting information… only in causing endless suffering for their charges. One would only employ this Order if they wished for their target to continuously and pointlessly suffer the most painful, horrific, and humiliating of torments every waking hour of their life ad infinitum. The Megalochists are forbidden to take the life of a charge (they incur a heavy fine each time) and instead pride themselves on being able to prolong a creature’s agony for months, years, or even decades… but will gleefully release that same charge at a moment’s notice if the original client should ever fail to pay the charge’s monthly “rent” on time.
The Guild of Justice
- The Carnifextus Guild – perhaps the oldest and proudest of the Orders within the Guild of Justice, the Carnifextus Guild prides themselves on being the world’s most efficient headsmen. In the years following the War, there was no end to the necks in need of severing, but in more recent time the Order has fallen out of prominence (the Verivextor are now their uncontested superiors), and there are very few headsmen indeed that are exclusively members of only this Order.
- The Hempen Danse Macabre – comprised primarily of necromancers and undead creatures, they specialize in hangings and other similar executions where the body parts of criminals are later harvested to serve as key spell components (making them also quite tight with the Mors Forte). This Order also specializes in executions which will ensure the victim’s soul becomes a restless spirit or is in some way or other trapped on this plane of existence.
- The Justicars – distinguished, feared, and infallible in their fields of influence, the five Justicars do not actually dwell in the Guildhall, but each actually has an entire wing of the Justicar’s Palace in the High City to themselves, where they retire in comfort and solitude to review city business. If ever a citizen of the city has a dispute with another, and they prefer to resolve their differences with an argument rather than violence, (and assuming they can pay the filing fees) the would-be plaintiff can petition their case to the Justicars who (if it is accepted) will hear arguments from both sides in the Hall of Judges and levy a final judgment that the entire city will then go forth to enforce if it must. All five are drawn from members of the Cult of the Spire, and while they do not actually have a vote in the Blackspirian Senate, they are often called upon to adjudicate disputes between major city powers, or analyze the feasibility of certain proposed laws, etc. The Justicars also employ a squad of bailiffs (and part-time bounty hunters) who serve as heralds, run missives, and collect both witnesses and defendants for court, but even those bailiffs tend to be made up of worshipers of the Obelisk.
- The Armaş – while this Order has purportedly been disbanded since the Guild of Silence left their old tower in Squallow’s Ward centuries ago when the 1000 Eyes merged the Three Guilds of Fleshcraft into the single Guildhall (within the Bureaucratic Ward: conveniently adjacent to the High City wall!), their notorious reputation still manages to carry on to this day. Their specialty in the prolonged and agonizing public impalement of victims meant they essentially became the first (and ultimately last) Order besides The 1000 Eyes to hold membership in each of the Three Guilds.
- The Eye in the Pyramid – technically also part of the Guilds of Secrets, this is the investigative arm of the 1000 Eyes (who in turn oversees all Three Guilds of Flechcraft), and can be comprised of non-Cult of the Spire members. Purely investigative, they accept contracts 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 (who Solina has the occasion to meet). It also appears that the half-iron golem Beholder Lord Ry’ant O’auk is another member of The Eye in the Pyramid, and she makes the (arguable) mistake of asking him about the Scythe Night Killers… a pair of serial killers that turn out to be the eternal bane of their Order…
Elsewhere, Maelik Kileam and Marv are called to a meeting of gladikers hosted by The Celebrant where they will discuss the specifics of the Last Man Standing competition (as well as the initial prospective odds of each fighter). Aside from Marv of the White Hydra Ludus, here are the other qualified competitors for this semi-annual event.
- Goromur Luckpride – this blue-bearded dwarf is represented by the red-bearded Beldur Foeskull of the Warriors faction of the Fraternity of Guilds. Goromur was trained as a Miner, but if he wins this competition, the Warriors will allow him to join their ranks.
- “Sir” Vance the Lance – this Knight of Pickett’s Ward is naturally represented by Felix IV, who in turn has the honor of putting forth the champion for this particular Last Man Standing to represent the Mercenary Consortium‘s interests.
- Azote of Minosovo – this axe-wielding minotaur is represented by Galadon the Gladiker on behalf of Count Aggorou. Galadon is blindfolded, and wears a magical Robe of Eyes (which marks him as a “trusted slave” to a powerful Beholder and under his protection).
- Sh’ei Clanless – this Lolthian female is here representing herself as her own gladiker.
- Ápatho the Beggar’s Champion – a human slave-warrior, The Celebrant is technically Ápatho’s gladiker, and is the aboleth’s “offering” to the competition.
- Skheeris – this half-red dragon-ogre anti-paladin of Tiamat is represented by a talos named Bascallus on behalf of the red dragon Isrecor, called “Ash Flame” who is the head of the Sellsword Fraternity. Many of the other gladikers are quite nervous, as the anti-paladin is a popular gladiator in the Red Sands Coliseum, and in some respects this competition is somewhat beneath him. Perhaps he simply wishes for an opportunity to claim the Grumchucker Belt from The Sleeper, who has defended it for three years… or perhaps the motives of his handlers are even more calculated…
- Volg the Viscious – this bugbear ranger (with a dire wolf “pet”) is represented by none other than Daki Goldtooth. Daki waits for Maelik Kileam to confirm Marv’s participation, and then he makes a big deal out of pulling Volg from the competition. In fact, he even implies to Skheeris that his days are numbered… no doubt once news of Volg pulling out spreads to the bookies, the betting odds on the fight start getting interesting.
- “Surprise Guests” – true to form with previous Last Man Standing competitions, periodically throughout the fight various monsters will be released into the arena that will have no particular bias as to whom they will attack. While The Celebrant keeps the particular details of this to himself, he does tease that the “final guest” is a great surprise, sponsored by Squibulous’s Butcheries (an aboleth-owned business, which is the largest slaughterhouse in Blackspire, and its principle meat merchant).
The competition is set, and as word spreads the betting starts. Maelik Kileam sends Liff out into town again with instructions to visit every single bar and tavern in the surrounding neighborhoods and spread the word of Marv’s impending victory.
Blackspire Session 42 – The Eye in the Pyramid
…or “How the All-Seeing Eye Sees Everything”
After a period of deliberation, it is her interest in the mysterious wanted poster Maelik Kileam acquired from the Dungeon that convinced Solina the new Order within the Three Guilds she wishes to join is the Eye in the Pyramid.
After making a few inquiries, she was ultimately directed to Sir Damien Darkmace, who promises that if she is willing to help him on the Scythe Night Killers case, he will gladly accept her into the Eye in the Pyramid. This pair of serial killers have been operating with complete impunity, and almost nothing is known about them save for a few key pieces of evidence.
Damien has been working on this case mostly solo for years now, and there is an entire basement room under the Guild of Justice’s wing dedicated solely to research on the Scythe Night Killers. Damien takes her down into the lonely bowels of the Guild and there shows Solina that this room is covered wall to wall with notes, drawings, and collected pieces of evidence with dozens of strings chaotically connecting various victims, locations, professions, etc. from all throughout the city. The number of these killers’ victims is downright staggering, until Damien points out that the room they’re in is just for the last ten years worth of their crimes, and directs her to other threads leading down a hallway to a half-dozen other similar rooms, each dedicated to their own decade of Scythe Night Killers serial murders.
Solina is free to pour through all the assembled research the Eye in the Pyramid has collected on the Scythe Night Killers over the decades, as Damien is currently the only investigator still currently working this case and can use all the help he can get. Between Sir Darkmace’s initial intel, plus the countless hours Solina eventually spends doing her own research of the evidence, she is able to glean the following details about this unprecedented string of murders.
- They kill two people every month – and this has stretched on for an unknown number of decades. They always strike on the last day of every month (hence their name), and while their victims include a whole host of various different races, and hail from a myriad of different neighborhoods, each individual pair of their victims tend to be of the same race, and in many instances researchers were able to conclude the victims knew each other prior to the crime. Family, friends, lovers, coworkers, enemies, and sometimes with even more ephemeral connections, but regardless of their prior relationship, their bodies often seem to have been left in a place that both victims had in common. To Damien’s knowledge, bodies from crimes on different nights have never been left in the same place as past victims. Each crime scene is unique in that respect…
- They are powerful magic users – regardless of who or what these killers actually are, they clearly have a great deal of magical might at their disposal, as there seems to be nowhere in the city, no matter how secure, they cannot enter or exit unseen and undetected to abduct their victims and/or stage their mutilated bodies some hours afterwards. In their decades of operation, there have been only a mere handful of cases where an eye-witness has even caught a glimpse of the pair of very tall, hooded killers at work. Moments later they always vanish quickly into thin air, and often enough these same eye-witnesses later go mysteriously missing as well… No amount of magical scrying has been able to locate the Scythe Night Killers, nor have any methods, mundane or magical, been able to glean pertinent information concerning their identities from the deceased victims’ corpses.
- They always kill in the same way – no age, race, or social class seems to be exempt from the Scythe Night Killers catalog of victims, so long as the targets are (generally speaking) humanoid creatures. However, their victims are always found (when they are found at all) decapitated and with the heads missing. Into the arms of each victim are always carved the words “NARATYR” into the right and “THANATOS” into the left, and additionally into each victim’s chest a strange symbol is also carved. The final “stroke” of which is made as a deep gouge that also disembowels the victim. Thus far, no investigator for the Eye in the Pyramid has been able to make sense of any of this symbology…
- Almost everything we know about them is based on one witness – according to Damien, during the last night of Harvest three years ago a doppleganger named Xuvux was walking home from the Queen of Blades through the back alleys of the Plebeian District when he stumbled onto a gristly scene. Two very tall hooded figures were busy using long black sickles to disembowel the bodies of two headless women (later identified as twin elf prostitutes Aísei and Elli Vonel) in a narrow back alley. Before the pair of killers vanished it was clear to the doppleganger that they had spotted him as he actually locked (glowing red) eyes with one of them. Much of the Scythe Night Killers’ physical description (including the sketch for the Wanted poster) is based on the testimony of the now very mentally disturbed Xuvux. Damien has interviewed him many times, as the doppleganger is now (at the Eye in the Pyramid‘s request) under the constant care of the Illithid alienist Dr. Belam Abstinence in the Pandemonium Wing of the Quaesitorium in the High City (the seat of the Incolumníta Inquisition).
- Many have worked this case before – but while most investigators believe there is a pattern to these crimes, so far no one has been able to predict a killing or a crime scene, let alone catch the Scythe Night Killers in the act. Sir Damien Darkmace used to work with a partner named Karmeth St. Iago who was even more obsessed with the case than he was, and she was certain some grand cycle of selective murder victims was at work. However, one day she suddenly up and quit the Eye of the Pyramid, abandoning the pursuit and now spends her days as a simple recruiter for the Cult of the Spire in the Grand Bazaar.
Damien also produces a pair of mechanical butterflies with wings of stained glass, and has one of them “sample” a drop of Solina’s blood. He then does the same for himself and entrusts that clockwork insect to her. This way they will be able to send messages to each other directly without having to have them rerouted through the Hive Mind and various couriers to reach each other. The next Scythe Night is a mere three days away, and if and when one of their crime scenes is discovered time is of the essence to investigate.
Solina spends the next three days pouring over the evidence trying to get her head around these crimes.
In the meantime, the White Hydra Mercenary Company lands a nice steady gig with Lady Kassindra, as she would like them to provide her with an around-the-clock bodyguard. Sir Bonniface is able to provide such service on his own without ever needing to be relieved, so the arrangement works out well for all involved.
Marv is also gearing up for his big fight, and pays a visit to the Gregus’s Forge to engage the fire giant wizard’s magical services. Among other thing he gets an amulet that sets his metal claws and teeth aflame. Melaria also picks up her commissioned Gravity Bow clip for her repeating crossbow, and is delighted to see Gregus managed to lengthen the clip to hold six bolts, rather than the standard five.
However, the night before the fight (which also happens to be Scythe Night) Liff returns to to White Hydra Hall beaten half to death. It appears he made the mistake of spreading “Marv Fever” in a tavern called the Bone Meal, and a bunch of “chivalrous” armored men who were inside lured him into the alley out back… and then proceeded to smash his lute, beat the pulp out of him, and finally break all ten of his fingers before sending him on his way.
Maelik Kileam then had to explain to Liff (who had no idea) all about who Felix IV, bastard of House Pickett and the Knights of Pickett’s Ward Mercenary Company really are… and maybe why it was a bad idea to go spouting off about Marv in “Sir” Vance the Lance’s home turf…
While G’eldatar is eventually able to repair and heal the elf’s wounded hands, it seems nothing will mend Liff’s wounded pride…
Blackspire Session 43 – The Last Man Standing
Marv faces his biggest challenge to date. Death is certain. For whom, Fate has yet to decide…
The first day of Tiamatis has come, and at 1st Bell with it the Last Man Standing competition. The White Hydra mercenaries place their bets on Marv with the Grumchucker Arena bookies and retire to the luxury box reserved for them… across from all the other gladikers and owners who also have a champion in this fight. The bugbear merchant Delilah Delight (who’d “engaged Marv’s services” for the past few days) joins the taxman Xaxaris, Boris Bronzehorn, Mortimer Stitchwell, and the Crimson Shadow as some of the White Hydra’s special guests. While Boris points out to Melaria that the twins Ix’Peth and Lolthis over in Felix’s booth still want an answer from her, Marv goes below and is directed to one of the guarded iron gates to await his turn to be released into the pit.
If Marv ends up being the “last man standing” he will earn the right to face the Arena’s champion, and if he then defeats him, will earn the coveted (and magical) Grumchucker Belt. Not only will this mean Marv would then be eligible to fight in the Red Sands Coliseum (the “big leagues”) but many years ago his gladiator father Vram also wore the same belt, and died gloriously on the field of that same Coliseum.
The Grumchucker Arena is literally swarming with goblins, including many dozens of so-called “Lamp Post Boyz” who are already cheering “SON OF VRAM!” in a crazy fevered pitch. They are shouted down by a huge contingent of dwarven spectators (most with blue or red-dyed beards) who are here to cheer for Goromur Luckpride… but BOO for Marv… and especially for Maelik Kileam when he appears once again in his dwarf gladiker persona.
Each of the gladikers draw straws to determine which order their champions will be released into the arena. Each gladiker will be given a few moments to introduce their champion to the crowd and/or ridicule the other champions and then the battle will commence.
When it’s the White Hydra’s turn, much to the PC’s horror, Liff steps forward first to entertain the crowd with a little ditty he wrote about (the bastard) Felix IV and his (haunted) ancestral home.
Three cheers for the chivalrous slum-knights! And their lord's castle that some ghosts have on loan... He must favor the comfort of wine-sinks, With only cobwebs to cushion his throne. He crowned himself King of the Ghetto, But only gangsters shrug off that aplomb, For you can't be the fourth of a lin-e-age, If no one remembers your mom...
Nearly everyone laughs at this little satirical romp… nearly… but if you thought Felix, Vance the Lance, and the Knights of Pickett’s Ward were angry about that, that’s nothing compared to what happens with the dwarves when it’s Maelik Kileam’s turn…
The dwarves are historically a proud, stubborn, and by many accounts generally a grim and humorless lot. While they certainly never appreciated a doppleganger assuming the persona what they felt was only a “caricature” of a dwarf (think “black-face entertainment”), perhaps his one saving grace was he never made his plain brown dwarf’s beard appear to have dyes of any color applied to it. However, when MKKM comes before the crowd this time to a hail of jeers and expletives from the assembled dwarves, he decides to egg them on. The doppleganger even goes so far as to insult them and uses his shape-changing abilities to make his beard prehensile, so he could waggle it at the dwarves while he made it changes colors, ultimately settling on red.
“Furious” doesn’t even begin to describe the dwarves’ reaction…
However, just as the actual battle is about to begin, a stained-glass butterfly lands on Solina’s hand. Within its abdomen she removes the curled up copper sheet, and inscribed on it with a thin stylus she reads the words:
Scythe Night victims at Iago the Ettin's Arcade, Plebeian District. Come immediately! -D.D.
However, as Marv’s life is literally on the line here, she decides to ignore the invitation and remains to watch the outcome of the Last Man Standing battle. If the Crimson Shadow noticed this he chose to say nothing…
Now, while all the PC’s characters were technically at this event, only the player running Marv really had anything to do with what was undoubtedly going to be a very long combat. So, to make this encounter interesting, I let each of the other PCs run one of the other gladiators in this fight. Everybody got their own character sheet, as well as a quick background and motivation for each champion (which everybody kept secret from one another as well).
But, nobody had any reason to go easy on Marv…
While there’s no sense in trying to rehash the actual battle other than maybe a few of the major points, perhaps perusing the character backgrounds below will give some sense to the way the tides and alliances in this battle were constantly shifting in what turned out to be a really fun combat.
Goromur Luckpride – Dwarf Stalward Defender
BACKGROUND: Goromur was born into a proud family of miners whose lineage stretches back to before the Dark Alliance. But Gomomur always drempt of a glorious life in the arena, righteously avenging himself on the enemies of his race (of which there is no end). Despite his association with the Mining Guild, he managed to find a gladiker in the dwarf Beldur Foeskull, and using his trusty familial pick “Veinstriker”, has earned a record of 5/1 in the Grumchucker Arena. His only loss was to a Lolthian woman named Sh’ei Clanless, whose poisons left him incapacitated, but alive. Regardless, his record was enough that he was still eligible for the Last Man Standing competition… where he will either be victorious or die in glorious battle.
STRATEGY: “Slow and steady, take your time, pick your battles”. Goromur is a survivor (especially when entering “Defensive Stance”) and one well-placed hit with Veinstriker is usually enough to drop any foe he faces. However, the gladiker Maelik Kileam and chirgeon G’eldatar D’Vosh are considered enemies of the dwarven people, and so if possible Goromon will attempt to humiliate Marv (and the White Hydra Mercenaries by extension) before slaying him. Beldur has also warned Goromur that there’s a good chance he’ll be facing off against Sh’ei Clanless again, and if so Goromur may seek a little payback for that humiliation as well. If he wins the Last Man Standing competition he will finally be accepted into the Warriors Guild, and be permitted to dye his beard red
Ápatho the Beggar’s Champion – Human Fighter
BACKGROUND: Ápatho was a part time mercenary who sold himself into slavery to pay the Life Tax for his wife and three children during this past year’s Harvest. He wound up in the Beggar Fights and with his moderate fighting skills (and a bit of luck) wound up surviving his first two fights in the Grumchucker Arena. He also won his third fight, but suspects The Celebrant arranged for the victory so with a 3/0 record he could later be offered up in the Last Man Standing competition as “The Beggar’s Champion”. Ápatho knows his wife and children will be in The Celbrant’s private box during the fight and hopes to die well for them.
STRATEGY: The evening before the fight, Ápatho met a fellow gladiator slave being held in The Celebrant’s dungeon, a minotaur named Azote of Minosovo. Azote had been taken from his home, a land quite distant from Blackspire, and forced to either kill or die in the arena for the amusement of his slavers. The two struck a pact of non-aggression with one another, and will support each other in battle if possible (though they both agreed they shouldn’t be too obvious about it, at least in the beginning…). If the fight comes down to the two of them, Azote promised to knock Ápatho unconscious (rather than kill him) and has blunted one edge of his double-bitted axe so as to only deal non-lethal damage for this purpose. The minotaur has also warned Ápatho to be wary of him when the Berserker Spirits of his ancestors take him over, for when that happens… he only sees red.
Skherris, called “Scorcher” – Half-Red Dragon-Ogre Anti-paladin
BACKGROUND: From a very young age, Skherris learned that his life was always better when he was obedient. Literally bred for battle, he’d always been provided special privledges due to his father Skheerskey’s (called Scortchsky) position in the Red Dragon Army. Eager to prove himself, he always listened when told what to do, what to say, what to think, and what to pray… and so deep was his need to please his illustrious father that eventually he found himself a knight in service to the Church of Tiamat, and blessed with her (un)holy gifts. A veteran of many battles, occassionally Shkerris also fights the enemies of the talos gladiker Bascallus on behalf of the Sellsword Fraternity. The battlefield matters not to him, all that matters is the battle… where he lays low any and all who dare challenge him, with the name of his dread goddess on his lips.
STRATEGY: Skheeris has little patience for subtlety and is disinterested in even feigning alliances. This is the Last Man Standing competition, and he fully intends to be its last man. In fact, the only reason Skheeris is even in this fight at all is that Bascallus received a tip that the final monster to be released during the fight is a recently captured white dragon that the Aboleths have acquired. It is the will of the Red Dragon Army that this white be thoroughly humiliated in this very public way before being slain, and Skheeris has been entered in this competition to ensure that happens. In fact, Skheeris will tolerate no one but himself to attempt to slay the beast, and will sabotage any other gladiator’s attempt to steal that glory from him. Skheerskey will be present in the crowd, and he dare not dissapoint his father, his people, or his goddess…
Azote of Minosovo – Minotaur barbarian
BACKGROUND: Azote had been captured by red dragon slavers and taken from his home of Minosovo, a land quite distant from Blackspire, and forced to either kill or die in the arena for the amusement of his new owners: the beholder Count Aggorou and his lickspittle croney Galadon the Gladiker. Since Azote was a young warrior, the rightous fury of his ancestors would take ahold of him, and fill him with the Berserker Spirits. And when that happens… he only sees red… and continues to fight until all his foes are fallen. This is how he managed to earn a 4/0 record in the Grumchucker Arena and wound up in the Last Man Standing competition. Azote hates all dragons, but the reds (and their kin) most of all, and would ally himself with any mutual enemy of such.
STRATEGY: The evening before the fight, Azote met a fellow gladiator slave being held in The Celebrant’s dungeon, a human named Ápatho who was a part time mercenary that sold himself into slavery to pay the taxes for his family. He somehow wound up in the Last Man Standing competition as “The Beggar’s Champion”, but Ápatho knows he’s simply fodder The Celebrant is offering up for the crowd’s amusement. Ápatho knows his wife and three children will be in The Celbrant’s private box during the fight and hopes to die well for them. The two slaves struck a pact of non-aggression with one another, and will support each other in battle if possible (though they both agreed they shouldn’t be too obvious about it, at least in the beginning…). If the fight comes down to the two of them, Azote promised to knock Ápatho unconscious (rather than kill him) and has blunted one edge of his double-bitted axe so as to only deal non-lethal damage. The minotaur has also warned Ápatho to be wary of him when the Berserker Spirits take him over (he always Rages/Power Attacks each round).
“Sir” Vance the Lance – Human cavalier (Order of the Lion)
BACKGROUND: Sir Vance is one of the oldest and most skilled members of the Knights of Pickett’s Ward mercenary company, and one of Felix IV’s most trusted allies. He isn’t known for wielding a lance in battle, so a little imagination is required to determine the source of his moniker. Vance is a long time veteran of the Grumchucker Arena, currently holding a record of 6/0, and has a knack for teaming up with fellow gladiators in the arena, and then turning on them once they’ve outlived their usefulness.
STRATEGY: At the start of each turn Vance can determine which of his fellow gladiators he considers his “allies” that round and can allow them to share in his Teamwork feats (Tactician ability), Banner bonus, menacing weapon bonus, and other Cavalier features… Additionally if Sir Vance begins singing one of the below song verses, his fellow Knights of Pickett’s Ward in the arena’s crowd (including a few bards) will sing along with him (adding +2/+2 hit and damage, which his gladiator “allies” can also benefit from). Felix has warned Vance that Skheeris and Marv are by far the two biggest threats to his surviving the Last Man Standing competition, and the plan is to attempt to pit each against the other, while he does his best to ally with the other gladiators (at least until both those main threats have been eliminated). Obviously, any gladiator who attacks him, or is discovered plotting betrayal against him (Bluff vs. Sense Motive) forefits the benefits of being his “ally”. He also counts on his opponents underestimating how quick and agile (and stealthy) he can be, even in heavy armor. Felix has also lent him a battle aspergillim which Vance can fill with acid to use against Marv the troll.
The Knights of Pickett’s Ward Songs We are the Knights of Pickett’s Ward, The Drunken Cavalry! We cannot march, we cannot ride… What wretched knights are we! When most knights would charge the front, We take ‘em in the rear. We ride into their baggage camp… And liberate their gear!!! We are the Knights of Pickett’s Ward, We’re warriors straight from hell! And sometimes we’ll stay and fight… If the client’s paid us well! And on the field if our swords break, We won’t call it quits. We’ll drop our pants on the battlefield… And beat them with our dicks!!! We are the Knights of Pickett’s Ward, Backstabbers, thieves, and mercs! Gold’s one of the prizes… And beer’s one of the perks! No one should try to stiff us, ‘Cause we don’t work for free. We’ll make him wish he never hired… The Drunken Cavalry!!!
Sh’ei Clanless – Lolthian Rogue (poisoner)
BACKGROUND: Born into the world without a family or access to the Lolthian aristocracy, Sh’ei (pronounced “sha-AY”) was forced to make a life for herself on the mean streets of Blackspire. Eventually due to her roguish skills she fell into work with the Black Market, and discovered a talent for poisons and other alchemical concoctions. Though still on very good terms with the Market, nonetheless she’s left her Underworld life (mostly) behind to pursue a career as a gladiator. Secret financing from the Black Market grants the freedom to serve as her own gladiker, which allows her to pick all her own fights (ones she’s certain she can win). Opponents and gamblers alike regularly underestimate her prowess, and the deadly combination of uncanny stealth, virulent poison, and a flurry of precision attacks has earned her the nearly unprecedented record of 12/0 in the arena. One of her previous opponents, the dwarf Goromur Luckpride will face her a second time in the Last Man Standing competition. Dwarves aren’t known for their forgiving nature, and he’s likely remember the strength sapping poison she filled his veins with until he was too weak to move about in his armor. She let him live, but isn’t counting on his gratitude for that gesture.
STRATEGY: Sh’ei cares little for the cheers of the crowd, she much prefers their gasps of astonishment as she brings yet another oversized opponent down, smiling all the way to the bookie. She prefers to stay hidden (even in plain sight), peppering her opponents with poison arrows until they are too weak to fight, then silently moves in for the kill. If forced into a melee stand off, she uses her Feinting skills and follows up with multiple sneak attacks. She’s clever enough to play along with anyone interested in forming an alliance, but will just bide her time until they are at their weakest and no longer useful…
One by one the champions are released into the pit, and by the time the last champion is released the battle is already well joined and the first alliances are taking shape. However, immediately after The Celebrant’s servants release the first of three rounds of “Surprise Guests” into the Arena. The first (care of Veritrax the Lolthian Verminlord) is a pair of giant scorpions, a whip-tail centipede. and a huge praying mantis. The competitors quickly put aside their differences to dispatch these nuisances before promptly returning to trying to slaughter one another.
The second wave comes after the first fatality (poor Ápatho…) and comprise a quartet of acidic ochre jellies (care of the Sewerjack’s Union), which those combatants that didn’t know to not use edged weapons on ended up turning into more like eight jellies…
Ultimately Goromur (much to the dismay of the dwarves, especially the Sewerjacks) wound up holding his ground a bit too long and ended up getting surrounded by multiple jellies… and was subsequently slowly digested to death…
The battle raged on and on, with much of the outcome hinging on Skherris, Vance (with his “cheering section”), and Marv. As this reaches a fever pitch, the third and final “guest” is revealed to the surprise of everyone (except the PC playing Skheeris).
A roaring white dragon which (sponsored in part by Squibulous’s Butcheries) was captured in some foreign land, and for his crimes shall die in this arena for the glory of Blackspire!
Enter Vülkyê, called “Deathsleet”…
Blackspire Session 44 – King of the Mountain of Corpses
There can be only one…
The red dragon section of the Arena goes wild as they begin to chant litanies to Tiamat and Skheeris goes in for the kill…
However, the white dragon Vülkyê, called “Deathsleet” does not immediately engage in battle. Instead he flies around the caged off sections, grasping the bars and pleading with the crowd.
He begins to say things like “The Spire has doomed us all!” and to “Wake up and join the IceFire Rebellion!”. The other gladiators have heard enough, and Skheeris and Marv actually end up fighting each other over who actually got to kill the white dragon.
Ultimately it was Marv, with his flaming teeth and claws, that ultimately killed the ice dragon… whose last words were “You fool! Don’t you see I’m not your enemy..?”
While most of the players widely agreed that Vance the Lance ultimately earned the MVP award for his ability to stand toe to toe with Skheeris, when all was said and done and the dust had settled, Marv was the last creature left alive in the Grumchucker Arena.
The Son of Vram was the Last Man Standing.
Delilah insisting on immediately taking the White Hydra mercenaries out for a night on the town to celebrate (as well as getting “her champion” all to herself). So they collected up all the loot from the deceased (for use, sale, or ransom) as well as the right to ransom back the corpses of the fallen back to their associates, and once MKKM settled that business they went out to celebrate. They even sell the white dragon corpse back to associates of Squibulous with the understanding they will clean and send the skull to White Hydra Hall. The wounded Red Dragon pride (both for Marv stealing the white dragon kill and for slaying Skheeris…) will be slightly harder to assuage… especially since they decide to keep most of Skheeris’s treasures. Stormtooth even claims his magical suit of Tiamat-designed Folding Plate, and Marv also decides to keep the anti-paladin’s “dragon-blessed/giant’s-bane” Undercutting Axe.
Regardless… later, while out and about, Delilah (now that she knew Marv had survived the fight) approaches Melaria about a business arrangement she wants to engage the White Hydra for.
Her arboretum “The Garden of Delights” does more than just use magical light to grow oranges, lemons, and limes… of late her business now actually brews its own Rulp for wholesale. Certain creatures that live in Blackspire (especially those not born with natural Darkvision) seem to need to occasionally imbibe doses of citrus fruit or their teeth and hair can fall out. They call it “The Scurvies”. Now producing citrus fruit of this nature is pain-staking and expensive, hence the need for a cheap alternative source for the common man: Rulp.
Made from a fermentation of the ground up rinds, pulp, seeds, and other discarded portions of various acidic fruits, this strong alcoholic beverage is often sold by street vendors all over the city (especially in the poorer sections) for mere pennies a serving. Delilah had won this arboretum business in a card game with a green dragonborn named Quickwhip, and for a while there had actually managed to turn a very tidy profit with it once she added Rulp production to the mix. Which brings her to the problem…
Now that her business is actually desirable, she believes the incredibly influential beholder Baron Dumasthrah (who owns some property very nearby) has set his sights on the Garden of Delights. Of late her business has suffered sabotage, merchandise has gone missing, deliveries to and from her place have been attacked by unknown assailants, and a number of her security guards have actually been murdered. All in all, her profits are down, and her next door neighbors (a family of elven florists called the Mythranels) even recently vanished and their business is now currently being occupied by a dozen or more unidentified ogre mercenaries.
She’s since doubled her own original security, and is now interested in discovering her enemy’s true face (as well as learning if she has any traitors in her midst) so offers to bring the White Hydra on as supplemental security to look into these matters. She offers them a substantial rate for their help, and also gives them some more advice.
Another nearby arboretum is run by a Dark Naga by the name of Glycon who also bases his own mercenary company “The Sons of the Serpent” out of the same building. Gylcon has some kind of odd obsession with another nearby business called Mynphauna’s Reserve, and since Delilah has long suspected Glycon is really just a proxy of Dumasthrah’s anyway, it’s possible the two of them plan to grab up and take over all the Units of District 3, Sector 5, Pod 12 of the Arboretum Districts… not just hers…
After they hash out the details, the White Hydra decide to go (or perhaps lightly stumble) directly to the Garden to Delights on the other side of town to check it out (and then crash). Comprised of two partially intersecting domes, one portion houses the brewing and business ends of the location, while the other is a large hydroponic grove of dozens and dozens of various different citrus plants (including Delilah’s prized, one-of-a-kind “blood orange” trees) – and whose dome is entirely illuminated by multiple Continual Light enchantments to keep the plants alive.
They also have a chance to meet the employees that make up The Garden of Delights.
- Delilah “Delight” Dooloo – bugbear aristocrat and gambler, she clearly has taken to Marv and hangs all over him every second she can.
- Kaylor – a hobgoblin fighter with his own squad of a dozen other humanoids. He is the Garden’s head of security, and is incredibly skeptical of these “new recruits” – especially since they show no signs of putting themselves under his command… nor does Delilah hear his protests on the matter.
- Diego Dooloo – Delilah’s drunk, cruel brother. He runs the actual Arboretum’s operations, but is quite a task-master on the staff, complete with his own whip he reserves for “lazy” employees. This includes a staff of over two dozen humans, gnomes, and goblins that go in constant fear of him. However, Diego does immediately become “romantically” taken with Akana… who distastefully rebuffs his clumsy advances and will have none of it…
- Fôdin Luckpride – this young dwarf’s beard is dyed a bright yellow. The brother of some Sewerjacks, he oversees the irrigation, pipes, and drainage systems of Delilah’s arboretum. He and Diego are long-time drinking buddies (complete with matching steins) who can often be found propping up the bar in a nearby tavern called The Low Hanging Fruit. Once word of his (arguably distant) cousin’s death in the Last Man Standing competition reaches him, Fôdin shows no real love (or offers any real help) to the White Hydra, but especially not to Marv or Maelik Kileam.
- Berbin “Burble” Tinkerton – this gnome’s goatee is dyed a bright green and he oversees all of the actual brewing operations of the Garden of Delight’s Rulp production. And thanks to the arboretum’s variety of citrus plants, he’s even able to occasionally experiment with creating some different “flavors” of Rulp. Of late though, he’s just fighting to be able to fill their regular orders…
- Sourlips – by far the oddest of all Delilah’s “employees” is the ancient treant (in the form of a lemon tree) named Sourlips. She is decrepit, beetle-infested, and clearly very senile. Her leaves have almost all fallen out, and the handful of yellow fruit that still hang from her branches are withered and almost completely shriveled up. It seems the arboretum has changed hands so many times over the years that no one can say for sure where the treant actually came from (including her…), but Sourlips has a true gift for caring for these sorts of plants, and apparently continues to do so because “otherwise they’ll all die with everything else…”. However, she often forgets to attend to even the smallest of duties, which no amount of “coercing” on Diego’s part can ever seem to remedy. It appears the only creatures the treant ever seems to respond well to are gnomes (for whom she has an almost joyous nostalgia for) and so it often falls to Berbin and the other fey-folk to “keep things running” around there…
Blackspire Session 45 – Hostile Makeovers
The White Hydra Mercenaries earn their paycheck…
Solina finally responds to her message from Darkmace and decides to investigate the Iago the Ettin’s Arcade crime scene in the Plebeian District. She discovers the giant-owned business is housed inside an enormous stone building where one can pay admission to attend what appears to be a year-long carnival, which primarily features many booths where one can try their luck at games of chance or skill (be they of timing, accuracy, or the giants’ favorite, strength).
The proprietor of the Arcade is a two-headed giant (Id & Ego, or collectively “Iago the Ettin”) that paints each head in garish clown greasepaint (one smiling, one frowning) and wears a silk jumpsuit of purple and green motley. One head is concerned only with business, while the other head cares only about fun, but the Scythe Night Killers situation is good for neither…
Iago complains “that investigator” already made him close the Arcade for hours while he examined the scene and waited for a swarm of mechanical ants to show up to haul off the bodies. It then took hours more to scrub up the bloodstains… all the while, no business, no money, no fun…
Regardless, Solina is still able to learn the two victims found were both stone giants (named Berrin Rockgob and Ureth Stonejaw) who worked door security for Iago. They’d recently been fighting about wages with him, so when they didn’t show up for work two nights ago, he figured they’d just quit.
A mutton-chopped storm giant named Zersus found their decapitated and disemboweled bodies later that evening stuffed behind the propped open front doors of the Arcade when he’d moved to close up for the night (sometime after 5th Toll). Though not he or anyone had seen or heard anything unusual, and it’s hard to miss a pair of stone giants being stuffed behind doors that easily weigh a few tons each (and especially at the front door of the place).
It’s a mystery… unfortunately short of interviews, Solina is not able to collect any more evidence, and Iago quickly shoos her away from the establishment before she “scares the kiddies away”. She also learns Damien must have arrived on the scene only a handful of hours after the bodies were discovered, and probably sent her the butterfly message shortly after once he’d arrived and was able to determine this was the work of the Scythe Night Killers.
Solina decides to stay out of Damien’s way for a while…
In the meantime, the rest of the White Hydra Mercenary Company sets about gaining as much intelligence as they can about the businesses surrounding the Garden of Delights in this part of the Arboretum Districts.
While they continued to expand their knowledge of each of these places as the sessions went on and they interacted with more sources, below is a summary of what they were able to ultimately learn about these places.
- Glycon’s Arboretum – the arboretum section of this establishment seems dedicated to provide a full assortment of what Jezebel is able to deduce is considered “tropical plant-life” (a good deal of it poisonous). Its Sons of the Serpent mercenary employees seem to be comprised of kobolds, talos, troglodytes, and other reptilian creatures in the service to the dark naga. They also learn this group has old ties to the Lifequencher’s Union, and apparently this group is also secretly a cult of snake-worshippers who idolize some ancient father-of-all-things-reptilian deity named Set. Set worship apparently used to be practiced more openly over a century ago, until certain ideological differences with the Church of Tiamat culminated in a great massacre of the Settite cultists at the hands of the dragons. The anniversary of which, now called “Dragon-Knockers Night” is still celebrated by the Tiamatians every year. Those who continue to practice Set worship these days tend to do so in hidden temples much more underground… places like beneath Glycon’s.
- Ooze Inc. – stand-offish and overly paranoid, the team of troglodytes that work here appear to cultivate various jellies, puddings, oozes, and other gelatinous creatures for sale. After a very brief exchange they clearly show they have no interest in speaking with the White Hydra, and threaten to unleash security precautions if they don’t leave immediately.
- Mythranel Florists – specializing in cultivating a single flower (roses) the family of elves who owned and operated this establishment are nowhere to be found. Instead the gang of ogre mercenaries they see squatting in the joint some of the White Hydra do recognize. They sport the wicked white double-bitted axe on a red field that marks them as members of “Thax’s Axes”, a guild of mercenaries run by the half-ogre Gurthax the Unsmiling (that Melaria, Marv, and Solina all once worked for). Gurthax isn’t present, but the ogres definitely remember Marv, especially now that he’s a gladiator champion, and let them in. However, unlike The Garden of Delights (and vast majority of other arboretums in Blackspire) Mythranel’s plants are not illuminated by common Continual Light spells, but in fact by a powerful permanent enchantment of Daylight. Encountering this type of light is an experience the PCs have nothing to compare to before (except perhaps in a dream…), and as a vampire this magical effect also poses an incredibly deadly danger to Solina (as well as to any Lolthian-forged metal object that happens to get exposed to it…).
- The Low Hanging Fruit – the ogres direct the White Hydra to the local watering hole, a dive bar where a handful of run-down serving wenches might service you with something more than your drink order… There they find Gurthax the Unsmiling and a few of his men drinking away their off-duty hours. It doesn’t take long for Gurthax to spill the beans that the Tax’s Axe’s are secretly in the employ (sub-contracted, so to speak) by the Sons of the Serpent, and paid them to hold onto the Florists for 30 days, until it’d officially become theirs in the eyes of the city. They’d then collect a big retainer and turn the keys over to Glycon, who Gurthax expects plans to control the entire block by then. It seems the family of elves is currently being help prisoner somewhere inside Glycon’s place until then. Gurthax also reveals he does all his business with the Sons of the Serpent via a lone troglodyte named Skinx (also known as “Stinky Skinky” though rarely to his face). Melaria quietly lets Gurthax know that the White Hydra have recently entered into the employ of Delilah Delight, but if Glycon really has his eyes set on the Garden of Delights, she might be willing to cut a backroom deal with him to do the very same thing there for him as the Axes did at Mythranel’s. Gurthax almost smiles and says he’ll get that message to Skinx.
- Local Pumping Station – a city-owned building that allows members of the Sewerjacks Union (and other authorized personnel) to gain access to the sewers, causeways, and subterranean pipe systems beneath the streets of this neighborhood.
- D’Vosh Devilweed Facility – managed by one of G’eldatar’s many, many cousins Yureth D’Vosh, this arboretum is just one of many that the Jaazahn D’Vosh and her extended family own and operate. Devilweed is an addictive plant that is dried and smoked in pipes and cigars. Yureth assures his relative that they have no interest in the schemes of Baron Dumasthatah nor the fate of the Garden of Delights. Nor does he hold any fear that the Baron would dare move against their facility. Jaazahn and the Baron have a professional rivalry that is far above a minor scrabble over real estate.
- Baron Dumasthrah’s – while the PCs steer well clear of this actual building, they are able to determine this facility is one of many that the Baron uses to mass produce wheat and corn to be used to make
- Skelwych Grove – a mysterious wholesaler of many varieties of nuts, while it does take a few attempts before the PCs are able to talk their way inside, after passing a very fortified and secure gate the grove inside also proves to be lit by magical Daylight. Owned by an elven vampire named Lady Skelwych, she is actually forced to walk beneath her magic Bumbershoot of Darkness to even move about her own place of business (outside her enchanted hut within that is). Her vampire familiar, a bat-winged black cat named Pooka is also forced to stay out of the sunlight. However, this light provides much needed nourishment to the small group of dryads that dwell in the trees that flourish within. Called by the names of the trees they are bound to: Chestnut, Acorn, Walnut, Almond, Pecan, and a boy dryad named Cashew, these ageless fey-folk are joined by a far more seriously minded naiad named Brooke who dwells in the artificial pond in the Grove that surrounds their copse of trees.
- Mynphauna’s Reserve – by far the most secretive, and hardest to gain access to, the PCs ultimately learn that this very large facility actually serves as something of a refugee camp for fey-folk run by a mysterious nymph named Mynphauna. Within this structure many types of spells and illusions have been woven together to create something of a (self-sufficient) sylvan paradise for a vast number of elves, gnomes, nymphs, satyrs, fairies, nixies, pixies, naiads, dryads, centaurs, and many many more of the fey-folk who have no real place for them in the city beyond these walls. In fact, it is these people who are responsible for sharing the magic of Daylight with the Mythranels and Lady Skelwych. But more on them later…
Additionally, they send the gargoyle Stormdrain to scout out the subterranean sections of the neighborhood, and he returns sometime later with news that he’d managed to find some secret tunnels. It seems that not only are there large old “hacked” pipes beneath the streets that secretly connect Mythranel Florists to both Skelwych Grove and to Mynphauna’s Reserve, Stormdrain also reports he’d managed to find a secret passage that clearly connects Glycon’s Arboretum to Baron Dumasthrah’s facility.
However, when Stormdrain leads Jezebel and Marv back down into the sewers to show them his findings, the group manages to alert a passing patrol of Sons of the Serpent who give chase. The PCs split up during their flight, and they both essentially end up abandoning Stormdrain to his fate. Nobody hears from him… and nobody really goes looking either…
But later it seems that Gurthax delivered the message, and Melaria is invited to a clandestine meeting with Skinx. She also learns why he carries the nickname “Stinky Skinky” as the troglodyte’s nauseating musk smell is considered particularly pungent, even by those of his kind.
Skinx does eventually reveal that the Sons of the Serpent have set their designs on expanding their territory. Thei White Hydra’s recent willingness to cross Tiamatians has endeared them to Skinx’s group, as does Melaria’s reptilian origins as a medusa. If the White Hydra Company is willing to help the Sons of the Serpent claim the Garden of Delights, Glycon will double what he is paying Gurthax to claim Mythranel’s. However, if they’d then be willing to work with the Sons and Thax’s Axes further and help them capture even more surrounding territory, then the riches they shall acquire will be far greater still.
Melaria agrees in principle, but says she will take the offer back to the company. Skinx agrees to a second meeting to discuss the final details, this time each mercenary company will have two representatives present. They will meet on the morrow in a private booth at The Bloody Coin.
Blackspire Session 46 – The High Price of Fame
Things get interesting…
The PCs finally return to White Hydra Hall for the first time since the Last Man Standing competition. As they draw closer, they notice the security force for their neighbors Clan Ironbeard is out in front of their house in full force. As they pass, many red-rune tattooed dwarven faces scowl back at them beneath bristling red-dyed beards.
When they reach their own front gate, they see Dragonglass with the rest of the gargoyles, QUILLION & POMMEL, and a few other White Hydra mercenaries on high alert. The paving stones in front of the gate have been vandalized with some strange red dye that, try as they might, no one is able to remove. Scrawled in an angry splatter, G’eldatar is able to determine they spell out dwarven runes which roughly translate to mean “Grudge-Worthy” or something to that effect.
It is their young (read: un-dyed beard) dwarf neighbor, Axel Ironbeard, who is actually able to shine some light on this situation. Since ancient times, the dwarven people have kept a catalog of wrongs they feel have been done to their race in a great volume they call the Book of Grudges. This is the same book that is read aloud from during the yearly dwarven performance of Nifelheim at the Opera House, and (based on this graffiti) it now appears that Maelik Kileam has actually earned himself an entry in that storied tome.
The doppleganger couldn’t have been prouder…
However, being mentioned in the Book of Grudges means for one, no “respectable” dwarf will now willingly do business with Maelik Kileam. As Axel’s family is already fairly unpopular among other dwarves (they’re called “Rustbeards” behind their back) he’s less concerned personally… Secondly, all dwarves are technically now honor-bound to do him harm. While he probably shouldn’t expect regular open hostility, if a dwarf were (for some reason) to slay MKKM, the dwarves would see it as justified, even if the killing was in cold blood and the dwarf is later executed for the murder… his name would still end up in the Book of Grudges for all time having forever avenged the honor of his people (for that particular insult, anyway…).
Axel goes on to explain the reasons (that were unbeknownst to MKKM) why the dwarves were so upset by his insults. To start with, dwarves are culturally very proud of their beards, from the first whisker of adolescence a dwarf will never put razor to his beard for all the long centuries of his life to come (if he can help it). Female dwarves observe a similar tradition, only it is the hair on their heads they never cut. Either way, the Fraternity of Guilds is essentially the only piece of dwarven historical tradition that their people can trace back to the ancient Empire of Nifelheim, and the ritual of dying their beards/hair is all closely tied to it.
The myth goes something like this… once there was some ancient dwarven king who led his army into battle against some one-eyed orc shaman guy that wanted to “paint the world red” for his god or something. During their battle, some accident occurred which ended up causing this dwarven king and all his men to become stained head to toe with some strange alchemical substance that would never wash out all the rest of their days… a substance only the Fraternity now knows the secret formulae to create, which they call STAYN.
From that story comes the tradition of upon reaching journeyman status, the dwarves will permanently dye their beards different colors in accordance with the Guild they are affiliated with. Journeymen submerge their beards (or hair) in STAYN, which permanently dyes the follicles the appropriate color. While it takes many months for the dye to come off the skin (the term “hue-lipped” being synonymous with “a young know-it-all”) the dye color remains in the hair permanently as the natural color emerges again from the roots. A canny dwarf can tell quite a bit about a dwarf’s age and relative skill level simply by comparing the length of the dyed and un-dyed portions of his beard. Some dwarves even go further and scar their faces with runes or symbols that also go into the STAYN… and which then become permanent tattoos once the dye wears off the rest of the skin. Also of note, really only something like 1 in 10 female dwarves actually develop beards, which are typically more akin to long thing mutton-chop sideburns. It is considered a very attractive trait for female dwarves to exhibit however, so those that do sport them typically dye them along with their hair (as many males also opt to dye their hair as well as beards).
NOTE: Most of the ancient dwarven clans that survive to this day have a traditional tie to one or more factions of the ancient collective the Fraternity of Guilds. Clan names in bold below are either current or former noble dwarven family lines.
The Fraternity of Guilds
- Red: Warriors Guild – any who would train from apprenticeship to make martial skills their profession may dye their beard red when they prove themselves to their master. Those who would come in from the outside usually must win some great victory before being accepted into their ranks. The Warriors Guild also have ties with the Sellsword Fraternity.
- Traditional clans: Luckpride, Flameblood, Blackflame (a schism of the Flamebloods), Rockshield, Foeskull, Hellhammer (a lost lineage)
- Traditional clans: Luckpride, Flameblood, Blackflame (a schism of the Flamebloods), Rockshield, Foeskull, Hellhammer (a lost lineage)
- Orange: Smiths Guild – having kept dwarven smithing techniques alive for centuries, everyone from the common blacksmith to the most skilled of goldsmiths would make up this guild. Gregus the giant for instance only hires orange-bearded dwarves to work in his Forge. Gem-cutting however is one area of expertise that experiences some tense crossover with both the yellow and the blue beards…
- Traditional clans: Eyehammer, Worldanvil, Tinkerton (Gnome clan)
- Yellow: Masons Guild – perhaps the only thing dwarves are more known for than their smithing is their architecture. The Masons naturally have the strongest ties to the Miners Guild, but also display the strongest disagreements with them when it comes to deciding which of them should actually be cutting the stones. More than just masonry however, this Guild also oversees all things irrigation/plumbing related, and as such they have strong ties to the Sewerjacks Union of Blackspire (who also commonly employ red beards as well).
- Traditional clans: Luckpride, Blackjewel, Greyfist (Duegar clan)
- Green: Foodstuffs Guild – concerned with all things consumable, dwarves are most famous for their brewing of ales and meads, as well as their aged sharp cheeses. This is one of the few Guilds within the Fraternity where gnomes are often in the majority.
- Traditional clans: Meadbeard, Earthbrother, Willthorn, Tinkerton
- Blue: Miners Guild – the key to all dwarven power, the Miners gather the resources (metal, stone, gems, etc) that need to be taken out of the earth and converted into greatness. The Miners don’t seem to have many close Fraternity affiliations excepts perhaps with the Warriors Guild, as they consider their “friendly rivalry” with the Masons sometimes less-than-friendly. They also seem to have closer ties to the Beholders than many of the other Guilds would care for…
- Traditional clans: Luckpride, Goldshadow, Blackjewel, Flameblood, Foeskull, Rockshield, Greyfist
- Violet: Administration Guild – in the ancient days it was only the dwarven nobility that dyed their beards purple. These days the dwarves have no true nobles, and instead a few of those family bloodlines (like the Ironbeards) now handle the administrative aspects of Fraternity business. What that really means is that all the other Guilds must “pay the pinky” (10%) on all their collective income to the Administration Guild. Before taxes mind you…
- Traditional clans: Gemfang, Worldanvil, Winteraxe, Goldshadow, Hornbrow, Ironbeard, Grudgekeeper (now defunct)
- Black: Artists Guild – while naturally Smiths and Masons also create works of art, this Guild is dedicated solely to creating things more of form than of function. Aside from painters and sculptors, this Guild also includes actors and musicians, as well as those handful of dwarves who take up the arcane arts. Because of this they have ties to Blackspire University, the Academy of War Magic, and the College of Necromancy (who are also steady customers of their black STAYN…).
- Traditional clans: Liferune, Willthorn, Eyehammer, Tinkerton, Blackflame
- Traditional clans: Liferune, Willthorn, Eyehammer, Tinkerton, Blackflame
- White: Healer’s Guild – while in the old days this Guild once included more than just physicians and midwives, nowadays their numbers have dwindled and as such their skills are needed more than ever. Of note, while the other forms of STAYN will dye any object that same hue, the white version actually behaves more like a bleaching agent, and saps all color out of an object, leaving it a pristine white.
- Traditional clans: Liferune, Earthbrother, Willthorn
- Mixed – some dwarves seek to join more than one Guild. Assuming they qualify as a Journeyman for their new profession, they are permitted to use STAYN on their beards a second, or sometimes even a third time. With the exception of white, the only thing that STAYN does not seem to be able to recolor is something else that has already been colored by STAYN. However, white STAYN does seem to be able to bleach out all the other colors if applied later, so beard colorations are slightly different for the “multi-classed” Healer… Anyway, these multi-Guild dwarves now sport a beard with various striations of color, and are typically well respected by their dwarven peers, regardless of Guild affiliation…
And while a simple summary will do, the PCs also learn the red dragon Skheerskey, called “Scorchsky” will be paying White Hydra Hall another visit, this time today. Jaspar was able to cover for their absence, but the dragons are demanding the return of the Tiamatian artifiacts, which they do in due time. The stand-off that ensued came within a hair’s breadth of resulting in the entire property and all within it to be reduced to ashes, but some last minute diplomacy on Melaria’s part ended things will the dragons accepting back Skherris’s axe (at fair ransom) yet allowing Stormtooth to keep the magical Folding Plate… in the hopes its protection will lead him away from the dark path of necromancy and back into Tiamat’s good graces. As the command words to activate and deaticate it are all prayers to Tiamat, it just might…
However, the time comes for their meeting with the Skinx, so Melaria decides to take Maelik Kileam with her in the hopes that his Detect Thoughts ability will reveal if the Sons of the Serpent plans to betray them down the line. At the Bloody Coin, they discover that Skinx’s partner in the negotiations is none other than the infamous talos Methadris of Many.
While the PCs do learn a bit more about The Many as the sessions go on (including much from Methadris), many of them are famous enough that their reputations proceed them. The results of a long-running cross-breeding program of various reptilian bipedal creatures such as talos, troglodytes, dragonborn, sahaguin, and other even more obscure genetic sources (and all spearheaded by the Church of Tiamat) those of The Many are considered genetically ideal specimens so perfect they are as to a race of their own. While “generally” considered brothers and sisters to one another (despite many characteristically physical differences) the PCs also learn at the end of the day there really aren’t all that many of The Many…
- Markáza of Many – a four-armed gladiator champion of the Red Sands Coliseum, as well as a high-ranking member of the Cult of the Spire.
- Merakoth of Many – an anti-paladin of Tiamat, and (being so blessed by the goddess) is one of the few people for whom it is actually permissible to ride on dragon-back. Merakoth is the rider of Byssgahr, called “Hellbreath” the General of the Red Dragon Army’s elite First Legion.
- Merakiss of Many – perhaps the most famous of The Many, Merakiss is considered a violin virtuoso, and she has written dozens of original scores for various performances at the Opera House. Also sporting four arms, she is perhaps most well known for being able to play both the violin and cello parts of duets by herself. She is also the city’s Poet Laurette with a permanent residency at Blackspire University, as well as being a staple figure in the Fashion Mafia, designing various new clothing lines for the green dragon Vhrik’Vris, called “Queensoul”. The PCs also learn a secret bit of gossip… it seems Merakiss sports a fair amount of troglodyte blood, but her musky pheromones tend to be as attractive to others as perhaps Stinky Skinky’s would be considered repulsive. This may also explain why Merakiss’s line of perfumes sell so well…
- Maradoss of Many – another prominent figure in the Red Dragon Army, she has her own wyvern animal companion and oversees reconnaissance for the First Legion. Additionally for almost two decades now she has been the lover of General Byssgahr, called “Hellbreath” and they even have three half-dragon children, the teen twins Gahris and Gahrera as well as little Byssis. Gahris is now one of five squires in service to red dragon anti-paladin Kar’Faerecor, called “Flamemind” (of the brood of Malfaerecor and Vhrik’Nalsis themselves) and the Grand Master General of the entire Red Dragon Army… and Gahrera is now an apprentice wizard under her uncle Metradoss.
- Makisis of Many – a high priestess of Tiamat, Makisis also serves as the Temple Inquisitor for the Church. Tiamatians prefer to handle those sorts of matters in-house rather than engaging the Incolumníta or the NOSFERAT, though Makisis has strong ties to both those organizations.
- Metradoss the Enchanter – professor emeritus at Blackspire University and one of the most prominent wizards in the city, Metradoss is considered the head of the entire branch of the magical school of Enchantment (hence his title) while other wizards in the city carry the title of “The Diviner”, “The Invoker”, “The Illusionist”, etc… While technically the Ultima Magi of the College of Necromancy is widely understood to be the head of that school of magic (so: “Grakomel the Necromancer”) the Academy of War Magic and the University of Blackspire both regularly seem to compete over which of the two institutions currently claims the loyalty of the most other magic school heads.
- Meromyr of Many – a talented spy for the Red Dragon Army, he hasn’t been heard from in some time. Rumors suggest anything from suspicions that he may be deep undercover somewhere… that perhaps he may have been captured or killed… and some even whisper that he may have even defected to one of Blackspire’s few remaining enemies.
- Methadriss of Many – this orange and blue scaled sorceress has her own coutal (winged snake) familiar, and while at one point she might have even been able to claim the title of “The Conjuror”, she actually left the Academy of War Magic (due to boredom) and joined the Lifequencher’s Union. She made quite a name for herself for a while among the assassins, as Methadriss could literally Wish her clients’ targets dead, but her rates proved to be too cost-prohibitive for most clients. Now while she was never cast out, neither does Last Kiss send her any work, so when a small faction within the Lifequenchers offered her the freedom, protection, and resources of the Sons of the Serpent, she joined their little Cult of Set… especially since Glycon is willing to pay the exorbitant fee she charges (two diamonds worth 25,000 each) for the casting of a Wish.
Some tense negotiation between Melaria and Skinx occur, but ultimately they come to an agreement at the table. The White Hydra agree to take over control of the Garden of Delights, and once they allow the Sons of the Serpent into the facility to ensure its security (and add some of its own) the mercenary groups (along with some of Thax’s Axes) will each split in half to form two different teams. With each team of mercenaries working together, one group will launch an assault on Skelwych Grove while the other will take control of Mynphauna’s Reserve.
Once they all part ways Maelik Kileam is able to confirm that while he couldn’t get into Methadris’s mind, after a few minutes he was able to get into Skinx’s. It appears Skinx has every intention of betraying the White Hydra once the buildings are all in the control of the Sons of the Serpent.
That’s alright… turns out that was Melaria’s plan as well…
However, that means for them to suceed, they need to gain the trust of both Skelwych and Mynphauna, neither of which they’ve managed to do yet. MKKM decides to attempt to make some in roads with Mynphauna. While scoping out the place he happened to notice the business was surreptitiously visited by a person he suspects might even be someone like an Illithid senator or something similar…
While MKKM had a few social difficulties negotiating an actual sit-down with management, eventually he did manage to get the White Hydra Mercenary Company an appointment with Mynphauna to discuss the “Glycon situation” on the morrow.
Like the nuts they grow, however, Skelwych Grove still remains tough to crack…
Blackspire Session 47 – Give me your hands if we be friends
The White Hydra Mercenaries vs. The Sons of the Serpent…
The PCs arrive for their meeting at Mynphauna’s Reserve, and after some serious vetting, eventually they are allowed beyond the rooms reserved for their business with the outside world, and ushered into the secret portions of the building. Among the vast collection of “sheltered” sylvan folk, they manage to be introduced to the few key people responsible for the running of the Reserve.
- Mynphauna– considered beautiful, even by the standards of other nymphs, she is sure to always cover at least a portion of her face with a fan of phoenix feathers when speaking with others (to prevent them from going mad). Mynphauna is the leader of this group of “refugee” fey, and she relies on a network of powerful benefactors and grateful creative types to ensure the continued protection and function of the Reserve. Mynphauna confides that the naga Glycon once caught a glimpse of her entire face on a windy day and ever since has become obsessed with finding a way to control her. When Melaria expresses to Mynphauna her intention to turn on the Sons of the Serpent before they can turn on the White Hydra, it is only a matter of discussing the specifics of alliance…
- Ariane – this half-elf is the public face of the Reserve and manages the majority of interaction with outsiders (and with her own team of heavily armed elven bodyguards). While Ariane dresses very prim and professionally, she is actually a powerful druid of the Green Faith. It is the druids who are responsible for the Daylight enchantments the PCs have witnessed recently (though at Mynphauna’s the Daylight fades periodically to something more of a moonlight throughout the day and then back again).
- Klightus Thriceborn – this centaur paladin of the same Path of the Green Faith as Ariane dresses head to tail in enameled green plate mail and “barding” and fights wielding both a sword and shield as well as charging into battle couching his own lance. Klightus handles the internal security concerns of the Reserve, and never takes his eyes off the PCs during their meeting with Mynphauna under her “garden party tent”.
- Paul Jollyfellow – also called “Jolly Paul” is a satyr arcane archer, and one of the only members of Mynphauna’s community who is actually comfortable moving about in Blackspire city (and as such handles most of Mynphauna’s external business). Mynphauna “lends” Paul to the White Hydra to help smooth over their negotiations with Lady Skelwych.
- Hoolupki – a precociously odd, green-haired gnome who comes and goes as she pleases, seems more concerned with the welfare of the trees and flowers of the Reserve than its “walkin’-talkin’ folk”, and who even sometimes openly scolds Klightus and calls him her “little brother”. Hoolupki is the unofficial groundskeeper of the Reserve, and everything “naturally occurring” within the grounds (including the “bottomless” pool of water at the center of the building) is the object of her scrutiny.
St. Jezebel also receives something of an education on the varying druidic philosophies that all comprise the collective religion known as the Green Faith. The gargoyle only learned one way of thinking from her mentor Friar Mossmantle, but learns that there are in fact five different Druidic Paths (divided up by the traditional alignments allowed for druids) and that each also has its own Hierophant, a druid who speaks for all of his or her Path when the druids of Blackspire convene at a stone circle deep within the Darkwood Grove called “Blackmoot”.
Green Faith Paths
- The Path of Life (Neutral Good) – Druids of this Path focus on Healing, Growth, Compassion, Courage, and the highest ideals life (which was shaped by Nature) can strive for. Traditionally they would be aligned with the Seelie race of fey-folk. The Hierophants of the Path of Life often had historically short careers, and regularly met with any number of mysterious and/or bloody ends. As such the Path of Life has not actually sported a Hierophant in nearly three decades. The last person to hold the title was Old Kaleathia (an 800+ years old elf princess), the last living daughter of King Erundel of the Emerald Phoenix Clan (who died along with all Kaleathia’s brothers and sons during the War), and her “mysterious” death as Hierophant 30 years ago was grieved so deeply by the rest of the Path of Life druids that no one else has dared raise their voice up to replace her. While Ariane is often considered by most to be the de-facto leader of this Path, when the other Hierophants of Blackmoot vote on matters that concern the Green Faith, the voices of the Path of Life are not heard…
- The Path of Cycles (Lawful Neutral) – Druids of this Path focus on understanding the Laws of Nature. The wind and weather, seasons and elements, agriculture and sustainable ecosystems. Traditionally they would be aligned with the Unseelie race of fey-folk. The Path of Cycles sees civilization as not separate, but an actual extension of the deepening complexities of nature (how is a city unlike a hive built by insects for instance?). Their Hierophant is Jaazhanel D’Vosh, the grandson of Jaazhan (great-granduncle to G’eldatar), and a key component of that Lolthian family’s agribusiness.
- The Path of Balance (True Neutral) – Druids of this Path focus on understanding the Balance of all things in Nature, and a deep relationship with all things earth and stone… and the primal clay of Mother Terregastia of which all things are shaped. Traditionally they would not be aligned nor adversarial with either the Seelie or Unseelie races of fey-folk. Their Hierophant is an ancient, ancient Galeb Duhr (a sentient boulder-man) named “Lonehenge” who whiles away his days in deep meditation within the Blackmoot circle of standing stones.
- The Path of the Wild (Chaotic Neutral) – Druids of this Path focus on understanding the primal nature at the heart of all things, reducing all decisions to ones of Fight, Serve, or Flight, and becoming one with the Beast within, either through shape-changing, animal companionship, or even the embracing of lycanthropy. Traditionally they would be aligned with the Seelie race of fey-folk. Their Hierophant is a werewolf shaman named Howls at Shadows.
- The Path of Survival (Neutral Evil) – also called the Path of the Self, Druids of this Path focus on living one more day, no matter how, to be paramount to all else. Traditionally they would be aligned with the Unseelie race of fey-folk. Those of this Path study to harness all the most destructive elements of Nature, have no problem taking on parasitic characteristics to thrive, and seek to understand and utilize such forces as disease, poison, and narcotics. Their Hierophant is a mysterious figure known only as The Grovemaster who is also principally responsible for the growth, maintenance, and harvesting of the vast array of trees within the Darkwood Grove.
However, with the endorsement of Mynphauna’s people (as well as the fact that they’re not left with too many other options) to make a long story short, the creatures of Skelwych Grove agree to work with the White Hydra when they turn on the Sons of the Serpent (who will be invading their place either way). Brooke the naiad in particular stands ready to defend Lady Skeywych and her fellow fey, and she even wields a sacred sword that a “saint” once dropped in her former river.
All that remained was for Melaria to get Gurthax to turn on the Sons of the Serpent when the time was right. While such an act as turning on one’s current employers wouldn’t bode particularly well for Gurthax professionally, he’s willing to side with the White Hydra “for old time’s sake” so long as their goal is to wipe out the Sons of the Serpent to the last member.
That’s almost Melaria’s plan… excepting her fellow assassin Methadriss of Many, of course…
Blackspire Session 48 – Snakes in the Grasses
The White Hydra mercenaries have joined forces with Mynphauna’s Reserve and the Skelwych Grove… but will it be enough to defeat the Sons of the Serpent?
This being Tiamat’s month, every Taks this month is another dragon holiday. The first: Dragonhunt celebrates the chromatic dragons’ (at least the four the Tiamatians care about) assent to the apex predatory race on the planet. A holy day to dragons where they go forth to collect tribute for Tiamat (and her most chosen servants) from worshipers and detractors alike. Stormtooth gives this year festivities a pass to focus on preparation for the imminent battle to come with actual ideological foes of Tiamat…
And speaking of asides… while in reality this came about over a number of different sessions, it made sense to try to summarize this situation in one place…
Of late, Maelik Kileam managed to negotiate the purchase of the deed to Blackskull Hall from the necromancer Anogaldi… so long as the doppleganger promised that when he rebuilt the structure, the Blackskull name does not become in any way associated with it (agreed). Now, since it was likely one of the Lolthian families that burned down the original structure in the first place, Maelik Kileam wisely decides against approaching House Thathis to see about rebuilding the playhouse.
That unfortunately leaves only the dwarves…
However, as more than just a master of disguise, but a reader of minds, eventually MKKM is able to locate a yellow-bearded mason named Rearden Blackjewel, who once the doppleganger comes clean about the whole “Book of Grudges Thing” is still willing to discretely work with him, so long as he coughs up an additional 10% “Asshole Tax”…
MKKM gladly pays the extra coin for the anonymity from the Fraternity of Guilds and the dwarves get to work clearing the site, repairing the foundations, and ordering new building materials. They even manage to pull the original architectural plans from the Hall of Records, though this time the structure will be made almost entirely out of stone (far, far less flammable than the darkwood planks of the old structure) but otherwise the exact same building where the Charater Alchemist first became famous in his role of Damon II.
If all goes to plan, the building should be up by the end of the year, and they will continue to meet monthly to discuss progress and problems as they occur.
But the time has come for the White Hydra to prove to the Sons of the Serpent they are on the same side. They use Marv to distract Delilah, and they drug her to unconsciousness and put her under Count Zarathusa’s guard hidden at White Hydra Hall. Later, Melaria then uses Akana to distract Diego and calls him, Kaylor, and the rest of the security crew all into the Garden of Delights offices…
There Melaria proceeds to turn Diego, Kaylor, and the rest of the guards into stone. This gesture seems to satisfy the Sons of the Serpent who show up promptly at the Garden of Delights shortly after to claim control of the building. They also insist that Marv pulverize the petrified Diego, Kaylor, and the rest into rubble before that can be sure the White Hydra are trustworthy.
Melaria gives Marv the go-ahead to make that particular demonstration…
However, everyone seemed to forget to check for Fôdin Luckpride, who just so happened to be down in the basement fixing pipes when this all this occurred… and who lays low until after the White Hydra and the main forces of the Sons of the Serpent leave to attack Mynphauna and Skelwych’s places… then does something…
Eventually Gurthax shows with a few men as well… though he has others positioned with more White Hydra beneath Mythranel to reinforce their teams once the betrayals happen. The Sons of the Serpent seem not to know about the secret tunnels connecting these three “daylit” buildings, and the White Hydra aim to keep it that way.
Below are the main forces of the Setite mercenaries, and what the PCs were able to learn about them, either before, or upon meeting them all in person at this moment.
Sons of the Serpent Mercenary Company
- Glycon – this dark naga bard has been obsessed with Mynphauna for years. It’s true the Sons of the Serpent are more or less exclusive to Baron Dumasthrah these days since Glycon actually “owns” the building they live in through the Baron… and so (according to Glycon) all the beholder really needed to promise to him was “the nymph” and he was willing to commit to forces to the hostile takeover of the neighborhood. Aside from his obsession with utilizing Methadriss’s Wish-casting abilities (used to create the perfect “prison home” for Mynphauna) he also “plays” the role of Set during rituals held in the Temple beneath his arboretum, as well as “key performances” as a member of the Dog Faced Gods with Caduceus.
- Klix – a kobold trap-finder/lock-breaker with his own small squad of kobold rogue flunkies. Together as a team there is nowhere secure they can’t seem to get the Sons of the Serpent inside of…
- Baethos Brightscale – aka “Baethos the Evolved” is a four-armed sahuagin ranger wielding four tridents, each attuned to a different type of elemental damage. Each of his arms bear the mark of the Cult Primordiae, which it looks like Baethos has tried a number of different attempts to remove. He also has an adolescent tyrannosaurus rex as his animal companion… cute…
- Caduceus – a spirit naga priestess of Set and assassin for the Lifequencher’s Union (as well as a torturer for the Dog Faced Gods). While Glycon runs the arboretum and is the “face” of the organization, it is Caduceus who is the true leader of the Setite cultist mercenary company. She commands a small army of zealot talos and trodlodyte worshippers of Set who will gladly sacrifice their lives in her service. Additionally, another member of their cult, who is blessedly not a member of the Sons of the Serpent (and thus not present) is another naga assassin for the Lifequencher’s Union known as Sisitrisk (a contemporary of Last Kiss). Caduceus is also the “keeper” of some great and ancient entity known as “Vulcanus”.
- Skinx – aka “Stinky Skinky” the troglodyte they’re already met, they also learn that he appears to be a druid of some considerable power, and is associated with the Path of the Wild. He has a viscious cobra for an animal companion.
- Methadriss of Many – Melaria and Solina are sure to make the Sign of the Blind Eye to both Methadriss and Caduceus when the Sons of the Serpent arrive at the Garden, and they are relieved when the talos and naga return the gesture. Aside from her fellow assassins, as a Setitie it seems she also won’t attack anyone with reptilian blood (like Stormtooth) and so Melaria split up the White Hydra so these two assassins will have minimal targets on their side when things go south and the betrayals are revealed…
The two mercenary companies split up, and each move to position themselves for a frontal assault on either Mynphauna’s Reserve (with Glycon, Klix, and Baethos) or Skelwych Grove (with Caduceus, Skinx, and Methadriss).
Things are about to get messy…
Blackspire Session 49 – Freedom for the Arboretum
Caught in an old fashioned Blackspirian Standoff, the White Hydra mercenaries stand ready to betray their betrayers… but who shall strike first?
So, this battle stretched on for many sessions over different connecting battlefields, and involved combatants from every attacking and defending party involved (including Mynphauna herself, astride a unicorn). There’s not anything I can really recap other than it ended up becoming a colossal free-for-all once the Sons of the Serpent became tipped off to the fact that the White Hydra were actually defending these places against them. It was absolute mayhem on multiple fronts.
If you look at the board below, perhaps you can use your imagination…
The battle rages on and things get serious. Methadriss is less than pleased at being betrayed, and even more so that she’s limited to the types of retaliation she can take. Methadriss doesn’t have to go so easy on their mercenary employees (like Drammis) for instance, though… but even his draconic blood spared him the worst of it.
Caduceus is likewise honor-bound to avoid attacking Melaria and Solina (who at least return the favor), but Marv the gladiator has made no such oaths however, and proceeds to tear the naga apart…
Blackspire Session 50 – The Many Methods of Methadriss of Many
Treachery within a betrayal wrapped in perfidy… or business as usual for mercenaries in Blackspire.
The battle rages on, and once Mynphauna’s is mostly secured the mercenaries race through the sewers to reach Skelwych Grove and reinforce their allies…
Caduceus begins to lose hope, and commands Methadriss to “summon Vulcanus”. The talos sorceress agrees to fulfill the naga’s request, but it will also be the last task she performs for the Sons of the Serpent. Before leaving she furnishes Melaria with a blank Sacred Invoice stating her willingness to assassinate anyone for the cost of a solid diamond worth 25,000 crowns (pending 1000 Eyes approval of course). After this Methadriss of Many abandons the Setites to their fate at the hands of the White Hydra…
However… she teleports away, and is replaced next round with a Crag Linnorm, an ancient reptilian beast that may be something of a primordial, fire-breathing, missing link between dinosaurs and dragons. Endangered doesn’t even begin to cover it… this could very well be the last crag linnorm in existence… and it’s now breathing fire all over Skelwych Grove…
Roll for initiative…
Blackspire Session 51 – Leaving Leaves & Eschewing Ashes
The battle has turned, but is far from over…
The battle continues to rage on until both Caduceus and the Crag Linnorm are actually slain. Then Skinx “steps” into one of the trees in the Grove and vanishes. Glycon and Baethos were slain at Mynphauna’s with Klightus and Jolly Paul’s help, though Klix very quite nearly escaped… and blessedly Methadriss of Many does not return seeking revenge.
The most notable casualty on their side is Lady Skelwych, who was burnt to ashes in the Daylight of her Grove when Setite cultists dragged her from her shadowy hut. Pooka the cat is found hiding in her custom vampire’s luxury coffin inside the hut, and Solina claims ownership of that masterwork sarcophagus, Skelwych’s Bumbershoot of Shadows, and the vampire kitty.
Their next step is to both retake the Garden of Delight from the skeleton crew the Sons of the Serpent left behind, as well as capture Glycon’s Arboretum from the remainder of the cultists not sent on this raid. The Garden of Delights is easy enough to retake, but when they do so they find everyone scrambling around trying to figure out why they entire place is flooding. Eventually G’eldatar is able to identify the source of the irrigation clog… it was Diego Dooloo’s custom drinking stein, which it appears Fôdin Luckpride had jammed down a pipe before escaping through the sewers to the Local Pumping Station. Marv tries to track him, but the dwarf is long gone.
The Setites’ Arboretum is much more difficult to secure, for aside from the handful of remaining zealots, and the literal nests of vipers they find among the tropical environment, they also find the arboretum guarded by a shambling mound called Swampbeard, an otyugh named Multrum, and what appears to be a (tortured) lime-tree treant named Puckerbark. They also find an infant blood-orange tree Skinx had been cultivating with stolen fruit from the Garden of Delights.
The cultists, Swampbeard, and Multrum are handily dispatched, and then in the otyugh’s cesspit lair they find the imprisoned Mythranel family of elves. Additionally they discover at the bottom of all that filth is the chained form of the gargoyle Stormdrain. It seems that the chained up gargoyle entered The Meld through the stones at the base of the pit rather than drown on the sewage he was submerged in, and had been in that state since his capture many days ago.
Lucky thing too… the PCs weren’t even looking for him…
The grateful Mythranels are released to Mynphauna’s care, and Puckerbark they introduce to Sourlips at the Garden of Delights… otherwise they loot the crap out of the place…
And they have loads of crap to loot…
Blackspire Session 52 – Dross Rehearsal
The Sons of the Serpent defeated, the White Hydra comb through the spoils…
The White Hydra Mercenary Company have a number of new pieces of magical loot that will need to be registered with Skyrm (which Brother Hiss is happy to manage) but the crowning prizes are Glycon’s Mask of Stony Demeanor which Maelik Kileam commandeers, and an Amulet of Non-detection which Melaria takes off of Caduceus’s corpse. While G’eldatar doesn’t spend much time weeping over the dead linnorm (instead deciding it’ll make a wonderful zombie guardian for their tower in Mage Town) Marv is mostly content just to collect and clean the skulls of their most notable enemies. The White Hydra also resolve to keep a happy and inebriated Delilah at the mansion for a bit longer while they figure out what to do next. Marv is enlisted to keep her “occupied” in the meantime…
As the days wind by and the White Hydra do their best to secure their new holdings and consult Count Zarathusa on their best strategies for managing Baron Dumasthrah’s inevitable response, eventually the Drama Symposium of the Gorgonate comes around. Not only do the White Hydra have their security gig, but Maelik Kileam and Diabynia had been rehearsing their big performance at the Symposium.
During the mingling before the performance, Diabynia sets the stage by first favoring a number of visitors with a taste of some satirical poetry of a somewhat personal nature to them. For example, when she sees Stormtooth, she favors him with a poem she’d written about his Twice-Father…
There once was a dragon so lewd, Even his daughters were decidedly screwed. He never guarded his loins, Like he counted his coins, So in time he lost count of his brood...
Stormtooth was a good sport about it, and even chuckled a bit. Others who received similar treatment had less of a sense of humor, much to the amusement of the other Muses…
Now, credit where credit is due, when it came time for the performance, the player running MKKM had actually written an original little poem about each of the Muses, which he performed “in character” by rolling Bluff to mimic each one. Impressive and definitely worth rewarding…
To simulate this, I had each of the other players take on the “roles” of the other Muses, and rate each of the doppleganger’s poems from 1-10 in Structure (rhyme and meter), Style (capturing the character), Wit (pointedly satirical), and finally Scandal (the “oh snap” factor). I then averaged out each one, and came up with a final reward, both of Experience, as well as Reputation for Maelik Kileam with the Art World.
Everyone was quite impressed, but what put it over the top was the purely delicious scandal of Maelik Kileam taking on the form of the deceased Hesphetities and giving something of a controversial (if not un-tasteful) final send-off. I highlighted the most popular of each of MMK’s performances in red below, and the Hesphetities was by far the most scandalous… which of course the Gorgonate ate up…
What a triumph!
Speaking of Hesphetities however, the spaces for the upcoming Arts Symposium are still open, and Melaria decides that she will submit a proposal for her own gallery space. She plans to create a series of “performance art” statues, using St. Jezebel to “pose” along side willing models who freely submit to Melaria’s petrifying gaze. She’ll have her work cut out for her fining enough volunteers for an entire series, but she’s determined to try.
And finally Zarathusa has a suggestion for the White Hydra (but particularly Marv) to consider. While he does propose that Melaria attempt to step into Glycon’s shoes and position the mercenaries to take over for the Sons of the Serpent as if nothing happened and continue their relationship with the Baron, he thinks Marv should secure their financial fortunes a bit more solidly by marrying Delilah Delight, and becoming partial owner of the Garden of Delights. Marv agrees to propose.
Unsurprisingly, Delilah Delight says yes… she almost doesn’t even care too badly when she learns her brother is dead… and doesn’t end up asking too many detailed questions at any rate…
Blackspire Session 53 – Tying the Knots that Bind
You are cordially invited to attend the wedding of:
Delilah “Delight” Dooloo
Marv Kinkiller, the Son of Vram
White Hydra Hall, Plebeian District
Psinoon, Tiamatis, 5th Toll
Feast to follow immediately afterward.
Baron Dumasthrah is one of the most powerful, and certainly one of the richest Beholders in all of Blackspire. His fortune is based on the mass productions of wheat, corn, barley, and other (magically grown) grains which is the backbone of much of the city’s foodstuffs, and he owns a great many structures in the Arboretum Districts where he produces said commodities, the one adjacent to Glycon’s is just one (and a small one compared to some colossal other ones he owns). Dumasthrah’s many-eyed logo appears on countless products, is known to nearly every denizen of the city, from highest to lowest (and is rivaled only by the agricultural might of House D’Vosh).
So when he sends some representatives to White Hydra Hall for talks, they are not refused (though Zarathusa is hidden in the secret office for the duration of the visit). They are visited by a “monocled” Beholder named Sir Ghasperogk (a member of the Baron’s Ka-tet) and two small beholder-kins named Colthus and Phegt (from “Marketing”) who would like to arrange for them all to attend a personal meeting with Dumasthrah at one of his other facilities to discuss “mutual futures”. The Baron is open to the idea of engaging their service, so long as they also agree to assume Glycon’s debts to him as well. They agree to the meeting, how can they not..?
Elsewhere, Stormtooth finally accepts the invitation of Kviscero, called “Darksoul” to pay him a visit in his mysterious clock tower on the College of Necromancy grounds. Students know to keep well away from the vampire-dragon’s domain, but Stormtooth is greeted by a team of skeletal kobold servants who user him into Darksoul’s chambers.
The tower’s interior clockwork mechanisms defy the blue dragon’s description, and the immense space beneath the tower’s roof is filled top to bottom with all matter of books, scrolls, maps, paintings, and artifacts (both mundane and magical) of every description. What, if anything, is as the core of the dragon’s work is well beyond Stormtooth.
Darksoul’s questions are very cryptic and confusing to Stormtooth, but his new mentor is also somewhat forthcoming with knowledge, so long as the young dragon demonstrates an ability to first grasp the baser concepts. While he can’t just drop by unannounced, Stormtooth is welcome back, once he has meditated upon, and believes he can answer any of a number of riddles Darksoul puts to him before leaving. The one that seemingly should be the easiest for Stormtooth is the one he ultimately ends up struggling with the most…
"Why are blue dragons blue?"
Some of the White Hydra also take the opportunity to invite their next door neighbors to the upcoming wedding. They are even invited into the home of the Sphinx family, and have a lovely conversation over licorice tea with the (now disgraced) Professor Hadit, whose focus is on ancient civilizations, especially the “mythical” expanse of the once-great Empire of Arcus. It seems many of his former collegues at Blackspire University found his theories concerning the fallen Arcusian Empire and their (purportedly near god-like) magical knowledge/advanced technology to be far too controversial to be considered credible…
Hadit’s fall out with his former colleagues doesn’t seems to trouble him as much as it does his wife Nuit (who is still a teacher at the University) but he’s also pretty tight-lipped when it comes to his current work, as is their son Ra-Hoor-Khuit who only confides “Dad says not to talk about the archaeological dig in the backyard”…
It also turns out Professor Hadit is an avid player of Wizard’s Chess, a game essentially based on a lanceboard, but each chess piece is actually an animated golem, who must battle and defeat their opponent’s golems to actually claim squares on the chessboard. A highly competitive (and incredibly expensive) hobby, sets can range from a few thousand, to a few hundred thousand crowns each… and much more for those who prefer their boards to be “life-sized” (in the old “Arcusian Style”). Hadit has quite a few very nice Wizard’s Chess sets on dispaly in the game room of his mansion, including a nearly complete ancient set of life-sized Arcusian “white pieces”. If any members of the White Hydra manage to get a hold of their own Wizard’s Chess set, Hadit is always interested in a new opponent.
In fact, in his game room are a number of “friendly” games currently in progress that he plays via correspondence with other illustrious personalities of the city (who still deign to speak with him)… including no less a personage than Ghalkonis, High Vizier to the Liche King himself! Naturally this is of great interest to Stormtooth, however, Hadit mentions the dracolich’s responses are infrequent at best, and it’s been well over a year since he received Ghalkonis’s last move…
However, Count Zarathusa insists that if the White Hydra Mercenary Company is to do business with another Beholder, he feels they need a bit of an education into some of the deeper subtleties of Hive politics. They are entering into dangerous territory, especially given Baron Dumasthrah’s wealth and influence… to say nothing of the fact that the baron was one of the Grythants who saw to Zarathusa’s humiliation, and disfigurement (the severing of his three most powerful eye-stalks).
First, it’s worth noting that the Beholder population of Blackspire is divided into two major Hives, the Occulari and the Grythant, the vast majority of both confine themselves the the actual structures of the Hive Sector of the city. Fortunately for the rest of the populace, these two races of Beholders hate each other more than any other group in the city, and tensions between the two groups range from a smoldering Cold War to open civil conflict. However, as much of this happens “internally” much of the rest of the city cares little about the Beholder strife unless it spills out into the city proper.
All Beholders believe they represent the purest generic representation of the Beholder race, and what outsiders might deem to be subtle cosmetic differences, for the Beholders are often grounds for genocide. The Occulari typically display a brown rubbery carapace with prehensile eye-stalks, while the more varied Grythan race have a blueish-purple rocky, chitinous hide with segmented eye-stalks and a yellowish-orange undercarriage. To further differentiate the two, the Grythant Charm eye-beams behave more like an Intimidate effect on their victims, while additionally the Occulari’s Deep Slumber eye-stalk instead has a Stone to Flesh ability to offset the Flesh to Stone eye power sported by both kinds. Finally, the Grythant’s central Anti-Magic eye has an additional translucent red eye-lid it can lower overtop to change the Anti-Magic effect into an area-of-effect Detect Magic which all nearby can observe.
To each other the Occulari and the Grythant couldn’t be more different, it’s little wonder they seem to constantly teeter on the edge of genocide…
However, each of the Hives have their own claim to Beholder “dominance”. The Occulari seem to boast a great deal more clerics blessed with the powers of the dread goddess The Great Mother. The Occulari claim this is proof their form is the superior one, and the Grythant have little room to argue, so instead have grown powerful through the “variety” they allow into the Hive (ostensibly) when they accept non-Beholders into their ka-tets. This means, outside of the Hive District nine out of every ten Beholders encountered will likely be of the Grythant Hive. The configuration of their powers makes them ideal for security duties, and as such have been the chief “peace-keepers” of the city for centuries.
Again, a ka-tet is a Beholder term that roughly translates to “sacred circle of trust”. Naturally this revolves around a single Beholder and a number of “Sirrahs”. Literally translating to mean “appendage”, a Sirrah is a Beholder’s trusted agent, and attaching such a person is considered the same as attacking the Beholder himself. Beholders are very territorial about the things they consider “theirs” and are very careful not to meddle in the businesses/industries of other members of their Hive. These sorts of potential disputes, if not settled quickly often denigrate into a formal duel, pitting two or more ka-tets against one another (often as public spectacle in the Red Sands Coliseum), with the final victor absorbing and/or annihilating their opponent’s survivors. This is one method by with a Beholder can additionally advance his rank within Beholder society.
NOTE: Beholders are actually asexual, and while they can apparently reproduce both asexually as well as being impregnated by another of their race, they tend to chose male or female designations more for their social implications than anything actually gender-based.
Now a Beholder’s ka-tet is traditionally limited to 10 entities (the same as a Beholder’s eye-stalks/appendages) but this web of protection from other Beholders becomes expanded an additional step for each rank a Beholder advances. Some Beholders are born into certain aristocratic ranks based on the entity that spawned them, while others advance themselves though deeds and accomplishments on behalf of the Hive.
- Sirrah – the lowest rank in the Hive which over 90% of Beholders belong to, most Sirrahs must first join the ka-tet of a Lord or higher before being able to attract their own loyal circle (to still serve that higher ranking Beholder). It’s not unusual for offspring to join their sire’s ka-tet before striking out on their own (or challenging their creator for dominance of the ka-tet).
- Lord – the first rank of Beholder aristocracy to extend their protection to others they accept into their ka-tet (a process that often requires a branding, tattooing, blinding, or otherwise marking their Sirrah’s life-time servitude). This protection only extends to the Sirrahs, not their families/employees/etc.
- Knight – while the second rank does not expand the ka-tet web beyond the traditional 10 “appendages”, the offspring of a Knight will be born a Lord and within the eyes of the Hive can immediately begin to attract their own ka-tet. They carry the appellation of “Sir”.
- Baron – the third aristocratic rank affords new protections to the Beholder at the center of the ka-tet. This protects the “ka-tets of the ka-tet“, meaning that the families, business, employees, and other allies of a Beholder’s ka-tet are considered wider extensions of the Beholder/his property. The smallest misunderstanding/percieved wrong in this area can easily lead to the complete destruction of a Beholder by one far more powerful than him.
- Viscount – while the ka-tets of a Viscount are treated no differently than a Baron’s, nonetheless a Viscount’s offspring are immediately considered Barons, and Beholders outside a Hive are rarely afforded this rank.
- Count – the protection of a Count’s ka-tet extends two degrees from the Beholder himself, and as such can easily stretch into dozens, if not hundreds of enterprises, all claimed and virulently defended by the Beholder in question. It is unwise to tangle with businesses who have unknown owners, as you never know if it’s a Beholder behind it all who will take things “personally”. Zarathusa managed to force the council of Elder Orbs into granting him this rank once he assumed control of Aegar’s Square’s southern gate, and it didn’t win him many friends in the Grythant Hive…
- Earl – Earls are like Counts who can give birth to Counts. There aren’t many of these, and those who eachieve this rank rarely hold it for long.
- Duke – only one Beholder who dwells outside of either Beholder Hive carries this rank, Duke Khemer-Vitrius and essentially all Beholders of the Grythant Hive that swell in the city proper are members of his ka-tet. Fortuntaely for most Beholders in the city, he is content to let them do business much as they will so long as none cross his incredibly lucrative gem and precious stone businesses.
Zarathusa also introduces the White Hydra to a few important “slang” words that haven’t quite made their way into Undercommon it could behoove them to understand.
- Ka-tet – while in the eyes of the Hive, technically Zarathusa’s disfigurement might limit his “sacred circle” of trust to seven members (the equivalent to his remaining eye-stalks) even a single “conflict of interests” between the loyalty/safety of a single member can be grounds for serious reparations. As such, Count Zarathusa officially accepts Melaria Kymygian into his ka-tet (which due to his rank extends to the entire White Hydra Company), and if they can keep the Count’s existence a secret, while also convincing Baron Dumastharah to give Melaria the spot recently vacated by Glycon… then they position themselves to one day be able to challenge the Baron for control of the entirety of his holdings!!!
- Sirrah – Melaria technically carries this rank of “servant/Appendage” within Beholder society, as none but their race can join the actual aristocracy. Despite his mutilation, Zarathusa’s rank of Count still carries more weight than a Baron (an advancement the Council of Orbs had long denied Dumasthrah) and so if they can survive an official duel between ka-tets, they stand to inherit riches beyond their wildest mercenary dreams… or instant destruction naturally… but as the situation with the Sons of the Serpent is already done with, winning the Baron’s favor is about the only chance for their continued survival in any regard…
- Kakwatt – roughly translating to mean “childless punk”, this is a Beholder who has not yet reproduced offspring for the Hive. Reproducing, either asexually or with a partner requires one to surrender their holdings to their offspring and retire to the Hive. Young Beholders that leave the Hive to make their fortune in the wider city usually have a few decades of freedom before one is expected to strengthen the greater Hive through reproduction, and those (like Zarathusa, Dumasthrah, and others) tend to be outsiders to the greater Hive society… which suited Zarathusa just fine, as he would never accept another Beholder into his ka-tet in the first place…
- Holvatt – roughly translating to “contributer”, the opposite of a Kakwatt, one isn’t likely to meet a Holvatt on the streets of Blackspire, as much like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn, the act of procreation among Beholder-kind is generally considered a one-way journey.
- Hakvatt – loosely meaning “befouler” this is a catch-all term among Beholders to refer to the other as an imperfect breed. There is no greater insult among Beholders, and the similarity of this word to the word for contributor should be cautioned for any seeking to converse with Beholder-kind and would seek to use their own slang.
- Washatt – a respectful term meaning “elder” that implies (but doesn’t implicitly state) that one is also a Holvatt among his people.
- Iolvatt – a slightly less respectful term meaning “old meat” and is used to refer to a Beholder that has outlived his usefulness to the Hive. A Beholder’s colorings begins to gray over time, with old age setting in at around 90. Some go blind and/or senile and are often let loose to aimlessly wander the Underdark (or occasionally the Necropolis).
- Elder Orb – Beholders that reach old age, but don’t perish in the intervening years go through a metamorphosis when they reach the age of 120 and become one of the Hive’s Elder Orbs. Much of their Council pertains to inter-Hive politics, but it is they that ultimately determine a Beholder’s rank, their position in the Hive, and adjudicate all disputes between ka-tets (as well as benefit as the “gladikers” of both sides for their public resolution).
- Kawahakkru – translating to mean “hive mother” or as Beholders are typically gender neutral, perhaps a closer translation would be “spawner boss” each Hive has only one of these Beholders who sports the form by which all other Beholders of the Hive are measured against. Technically all the members of the Council of Orbs are of her ka-tet.
- Edorakk – a bizarre quirk of Beholder physiology, this “mania” disease often seizes middle-aged Beholders and they begin to find non-Beholder forms appealing, going so far as to form their own “mini-hive”. Some believe that this disease is the origin of the ka-tet structure in the first place, and in modern times it seems that the Occulari are the race that is far more susceptible to the (generally temporary) mania of Edorakk. It is said the Grythant have developed an antibody to the disease that is passed on to their spawn, while others say that every member of the Grythant actually already exhibits symptoms of the disease, hence the Hive’s inclination to work with “imperfect” Beholder-kin, as well as other non-Beholderkind (unlike the far more xenophobic Occulari who are snobby even with other Occulari with even the slightest physical variations).
Their meeting with Baron Dumatharah looms closer, but the White Hydra have other pressing business… namely preparing for Marv’s wedding to Delilah Delight. Invitations are sent, the mansion is prepared for the ceremony, and perhaps most importantly Xaxaris the tax-collector is enlisted to make sure the marriage license is legal and binding. Delilah will control 50% of Marv’s 1/7th share in the White Hydra Company, and Marv will control 50% of the Garden of Delights, with full ownership passing to either spouse upon their death. That done, Marv gets a little lesson on troll history from none other than Count Zarathusa.
According to the Beholder, in the old days when a troll wanted to capture another female and take her back to his den, if he couldn’t steal her away from her family, he’d instead go out and kill the family’s enemies and present their heads to the patriarchs her tribe. If the elders were pleased with the caliber of the foes the troll had slain, they’d accept his offering and give up the female. The two would then ritually smash the skulls by stomping on them (mazeltov!) and once this was done, the two would be “married” in the eyes of their tribes.
Aside from the skull of Vülkyê the white dragon, Marv has the heads of Glycon, Caduceus, Baethoss, Klix, and a handful of other Setitie cultitsts prepared and placed on the balcony at the back of the mansion grounds overhanging the cliff overlooking Grumchucker’s Square over 100 feet below.
It stands to be a romantic occasion…
Blackspire Session 54 – A Disparaging Marriage?… or Weddings With Beheadings!
The White Hydra mercenary company comes face to face with the notorious Baron Dumastharah… but that’s not what’s got Marv scared…
The big day has arrived. No, not the wedding, but the White Hydra Mercenary Company’s summons by Baron Dumastharah. The gauths Colthus and Phegt arrive at the mansion to escort Melaria and company to their meeting. They are taken across town to a different section of the Arboretum Districts where entire adjoining neighborhoods are owned by the Baron, and then inside a singular huge dome that stretches the spans of entire blocks.
Once inside they are taken to Sir Ghasperogk who leads the party down a maze of tubular corridors to a circular shiny metal room, with only one doorway in and out, and sporting only a single circular table supported by a single leg. It becomes clear to the White Hydra that Baron Dumastharah’s conference rooms double as kill rooms if negotiations do not go to his liking.
The corpulent Baron Dumastharah finally appears with his entourage of Grythant security. The negotiation that followed was cold and complex, but also professional. The ultimate crux was that the White Hydra agree to relinquish control over Skelwych Grove and Mythranel’s Florists to the Baron’s personal control and he’d allow them to step into the role of the Sons of the Serpent. They’d work to bring in the same (or better with Jezebel’s help) profits from Glycon and Delilah’s arboretums, and pay the Baron the pinkie from those, and so long as they back off of the Daylight enchanted Skelwych and Mythranel, the Baron will give up any pursuit of controlling Mynphauna’s Reserve. It seems Gylcon overreached the Baron’s designs when he went after the nymph, and the Baron expects the White Hydra to be far less disappointingly unprofessional.
The PCs kept the most important detail of this entire situation a secret from the Baron’s people, namely that Count Zarathusa is alive and that Melaria is already a member of his ka-tet. So, when the White Hydra agree to all the Baron’s demands, Melaria is then officially made a member of Sir Ghasperogk’s ka-tet (taking Glycon’s vacant spot) the trap, as they say, was set.
Sir Ghasperogk even agrees to come to the wedding, which is just a well as Count Zarathusa was planning to hide in the secret room during the ceremony anyway, but it makes things riskier with other Beholders on the premises.
The wedding is fairly well attended, with a number of prominent guests (like a very dapper Daki), many of whom leave valuable gifts (or like Felix and Spike send something in lieu of attending). The Sphinx family is in attendance, so is Axel Ironbeard on behalf of his family, as well as Xaxaris (who collects taxes from everyone on this street). The Ironbeards give Marv a gift of a chest of precious stones… including luckily enough, a large enough diamond that will satisfy the price listed on Methadriss of Many’s “blank target” Sacred Invoice. Notably absent from the invitees are the twins Ix’Peth and Lolthis, as well as Gurthax the Unsmiling, who decides to lay low since his former “co-workers” Methadriss and Stinky Skinky both escaped the arboretum fight and the half-ogre being seen at the wedding of the merc who slew his employer (and is about to stomp on his skull into bits) wouldn’t be the best professional choice for him…
Regardless, there are still plenty of folks in attendance to witnesses to what came next…
The feast is made ready and the skulls are set out in a row along the rear balcony of the estate. Marv is dressed in full battle regalia, and Delilah arrives to the ceremony draped head to toe in layers of expensive furs. To the cheers of all the onlookers, the couple proceeds to leap up and down and take turns stomping on the skulls of their enemies with all their might (and considerable weight). The final skull belonging to the white dragon they jump up and stomp down upon as one.
The skull shatters spectacularly… but is immediately followed by a mighty crack as the stone masonry beneath them gives way and they both tumble down 100 feet to the ground below…
Blackspire Session 55 – Riddlers and Widowers
You could say that when Delilah fell in love…she fell hard.
Marv was only temporarily killed by the fall. He plummeted down through three whole stories of the building situated right beneath the cliff, and awoke from unconsciousness buried under a large pile of rubble and debris. While his troll regeneration brought him back from what would certainly have been fatal injuries for a “lesser” creature, others in the building were not quite so lucky… among those being Delilah herself, who the White Hydra find impaled on a rafter in the building’s attic… stone dead…
The building turns out to be a flea-bitten brothel called the Love Bug’s Itch, and G’eldatar is able to silence the very irate owner of the establishment by offering to buy the building at twice its (currently perceived) value. He also ends up settling the blood money issues with the slain patrons/prostitutes eventually as well.
However, by the time Marv walks back from Grumchucker’s Square to the stunned wedding party his injuries have already healed, but understandably the mood to party has left the guests (except perhaps for the goblins, Daki being no exception). Marv Kinkiller, the Son of Vram does end up earning yet another nickname from this little event however…
Anyway, sometime later among the rubble G’eldatar also finds something curious. Atop what appears to be a large fragment of Caduceus’s skull he finds a stained-glass butterfly construct fluttering about. Having the foresight to not attempt to bypass the various internal traps defending the construct’s message, he instead brings it to the attention of Melaria and Solina who know the proper procedures to gain access to its contents. Within they find a message from Last Kiss to certain members of the Lifequencer’s Union (Caduceus being one of them) which includes the medusa’s formula for a new highly-virulent coagulant poison she plans to unveil at the upcoming Natural Sciences Symposium. She asks for her agents to provide feedback from any “field-testing” they try with the new concoction. It seems Caduseus’s Amulet of Non-Detection kept her from getting this message until now (a problem which is now Melaria’s so long as she too continues to wear the item). Melaria opts to return the formula to Last Kiss… but not before allowing G’eldatar to copy down the formula into his own notes…
However, after the wedding guests have long gone home, a suspicious Maelik Kileam begins to poke around the structure of the collapsed balcony. Once he enlists St. Jezebel’s expertise however, the two of them are definitely able to determine the masonry had clearly been weakened by means of sabotage, and a huge creature like Marv the troll jumping up and down upon is was almost guaranteed to bring it down. They even go so far to question the gargoyles, and Magmind is able to confirm he did see Count Zarathusa poking around the balcony the day before the wedding, but had assumed he was arranging things for the ceremony (being the resident “troll wedding expert”).
Maelik Kileam and Jezebel resolve to never speak of what they’ve learned and let the matter drop…
Instead, with the Grumchucker Championship still fast approaching, MKKM and Marv decide to hit the town to raise the gladiator’s profile. They visit an establishment called the Glass Hour (situated between the Grand Bazaar and the Street of Dark Symphonies) which is operated by a number of golems, including a sentient bartender named STILL and his partner BOOKS the bookie… The Glass Hour is a well-known haunt for gladikers of all stripes to network and scout for talent, as well as a place for fans of Bloodsport of all kinds. Patrons are each given an hourglass device which they feed coins into each hour which signify their continued time inside. There are Copper, Silver, and Gold level hourglasses, and they refer to one of the three concentric tiers of seating situated around an enormous 10′ diameter crystal ball. The ball is used to scry various locations in the city (notably places like Grumchucker’s Arena and the Red Sands Coliseum) and patrons enjoy watching (and gambling) on these fights from the comfort of the establishment.
Maelik Kileam naturally gets them into the Gold section closest to the crystal ball, and after some schmoozing with the likes of Galadon the Gladiker, Marv is actually recognized by a semi-famous (and now retired) half-golem gladiker named Waldo Riddlefist. Waldo is currently out of the Bloodsport industry due to reasons he prefers not to discuss, but does seem to know an awful lot about Marv’s opponent in the upcoming gladiatorial fight. According to Waldo, The Sleeper is some sort of genetic abomination bred by the Aboleths for some nefarious unknown purpose. The Celebrant took over its stewardship from his kin, and it has defeated all challengers that have come up against it in the three years since.
Waldo even believes the Celebrant may even secretly wish for Marv to be victorious and kill The Sleeper, as rumors persist that the creature is notoriously difficult to placate, and impractical to utilize with any frequency in the Red Sands (which is much the point of the Grumchucker Championship belt).
However, killing The Sleeper will prove to be no easy task. Waldo promises Marv has never faced an opponent like this before, and he is outmatched both physically, and he’s afraid… mentally as well. A proper strategy will be essential if Marv is to have any hope at all of surviving this fight, and Waldo offers to train and advise both the troll and the doppleganger on these things and more… for a nominal fee of course…
Before leaving the Glass Hour, MKKM and Marv say they’ll consider Waldo Riddlefist’s offer… and that’s the last they ever see of him…
But elsewhere, finally after a long process of fasting, consuming naught but vile teas, and other even less savory alchemical processes probably best not to detail, G’eldatar’s long process of partial self-mummification is finally complete. While still technically alive, the dark elf now shares certain characteristics with the living dead (shrunken features being the most obvious)… but this process is just the next step in his own long path towards immortality…
Blackspire Session 56 – Conspiracy in the City of Spires
The life of Blackspirian mercenaries has begun to pay off… but it’s one thing to acquire wealth and power, another entirely to keep it.
Once they sort through the ashes (and poisonous serpents) Glycon’s Arboretum (coupled with their now complete ownership of the Garden of Delights) really has the potential to be profitable enterprises (to say nothing for the raw materials now available for the assassins and necromancers among them), provided this remain solid with Baron Dumasthrah. But for now, with no one to contest their holdings, life is good…
That is until the Crimson Shadow appears suddenly and insistently whisks Solina away. Solina can rarely glean any sort of emotion betrayed from beneath her lover’s mask (which he never removes) but she knows enough to know that something has happened quite recently that has disturbed him… though what that could be she could scarcely guess…
The Crimson Shadow leads her on a long trek through some of the roughest sections of Pickett’s Ward to the poorest and most savage neighborhood in the entire city: Squallow’s Ward. However, the vampire’s fearful presence brokers no actual response from the locals, and so eventually he leads her to an ancient crumbling tower in the very center to the neighborhood, which the locals all seem to steer well clear of for blocks around.
The Crimson Shadow reveals that many centuries ago, before the 1000 Eyes gathered the Three Guilds of Fleshcraft under one roof about the Confessional, each of the Guilds had its own headquarters, and this place was the seat of the Guild of Silence. He, along with the other Orders all picked up and moved locations, but there was one Order of assassins that was bound to the actual building… even after death… and as such haunt the location to this day.
The Order is called the Warlocks of the Shadow Prism, and it seems that the Crimson Shadow is the last “living” member of their group, the rest being restless spirits of various (other) hues of the spectrum. They are bound by old oaths and even more ancient obligations, but simply put: they will eagerly slay any trespasser who is not a Guild of Silence member, and even then anyone who makes a sound within the walls louder than a whisper.
Roll for Stealth…
Solina is presented to the hideous spectral warlocks (each cloaked in their own colored miasma) that still haunt the crumbling corridors of that wicked tower, as well as the ghostly eidolon beasts that accompany them through the long bleak eternity. The Crimson Shadow also reveals that the Warlock’s oaths also predate the Guild’s entire Sacred Invoice process altogether, and as such, now that she is known to them as an highly coveted member of the 1000 Eyes, she can (one time only) return to this tower and whisper to the warlocks the name of any citizen of the city, and the nine of them will go forth and slay the target “no questions asked”.
The Crimson Shadow makes Solina promise that if he is every mysteriously slain, she will come here and whisper the name of his vampire maker: “Countess St. Lovebane”.
Elsewhere, Stormtooth finally feels he that has an answer to Kviscero’s riddle, and returns to the Clocktower to test his answers against the black dragon vampire. He posits that the dragon coloration is based on a natural camouflage. Red dragons dwell in volcanic caverns, white dragons among the ice and snow, black dragons prefer muddy swamps, green dragons must naturally make their homes in forests amidst collections of trees (the like of which he only recently witnessed in the Arboretums), and so what follows is that blue dragons are blue to be camouflaged against the bright cloudless (desert) blue sky of a daylit world! Something else Stormtooth only recently was able to picture thanks to the ceiling illusions at Mynphauna’s Reserve.
Darksoul commends his young pupil before asking another riddle of sorts. Is it then best for dragonkind (especial the Blue Flight) to live in the Obelisk’s sunless world?
Additionally, it seems like time has finally run out for the White Hydra Mercenary Company when Melaria receives a “summons” from Ix’Peth and Lolthis to the headquarters of the Mercenary Consortium. Melaria even gets to see the fabled inverted skull chalice that the Consortium uses as its symbol on display. When Melaria politely insists that the White Hydra will remain independent from both the Mercenary Consortium and the Sellsword Fraternity, the twins state that at least for the Consortium, membership is no longer an option. They then produce none other that Fôdin Luckpride who proceeds to offer very compelling testimony of not only the outright petrification/murder of those under their protection, but conspired to murder their employer Delilah literally moments after one of the mercs had married her for her wealth…
Regardless of where the truth of this actually lies, the circumstances are too suspicious for the twins to ignore. Based on their intelligence concerning Thax’s Axes, the sisters have also gathered (to say nothing of how they’ve angered Scorchsky the red dragon by killing his half-ogre son) the White Hydra appear to have very little hope in finding a place among the Sellsword Fraternity either… It seems the White Hydra truly are out on their own, which for better or worse is just how Melaria wanted it…
Elsewhere, St. Jezebel has been seeing to the care of the recent gargoyle hatchlings that have been born of late. They luck out in that the first to be hatched turns out to be a rare female that they name Pearl due to her white eyes. A few males are hatched that month as well and the gargoyle population begins to bloom.
Speaking of… Lavaheart, the most outgoing of Dragonglass’s troops reveals that he is a very active member in the larger gargoyle community of the city. They will be holding one of their monthly meeting quite soon, and he invites Jezebel to come along, see what the meetings are like, and learn a bit more of the issues (and plights) of their kind in the city of Blackspire. She agree to go.
Also, sometime around this time is when Solina also surprises Pooka the vampire cat in one of the back rooms of the mansion. The kitty is “holding court” with a number of vampire mice that all appear to be under her mental control. When Solina interrupts the little gathering the mice all immediately scatter, turn to mist, or transform into bats and fly away. Pooka plays innocent, but it’s clear the winged vampire cat is a bit more cunning than they’d first suspected…
But the Crimson Shadow arrives again, but this time not to see Solina. It is Maelik Kileam that the vampire assassin needs to see. He has a mission for the doppleganger, and the Crimson Shadow makes it clear he does not actually approve of the job he has for the actor. It seems that his mistress, Countess St. Lovebane was quite impressed with MKKM’s impersonation of the vampire poet Lustromo when he performed for her at the Iniquiden some weeks back. The Countess was one of Lustromo’s former lovers (as MKKM knew from his research) but now it seems the vampire would like to arrange for an “authentic reunion”.
Maelik Kileam will need to spend a passionate evening with the Countess assuming the role of Lustomo “returned from the grave”. He must at no point break character and spoil the illusion… or the Countess is likely to be displeased. A potentially unhealthy situation…
To further complete the illusion, MKKM must don a cursed Ring of the Vampire Bride. This ancient magical item can only be placed on (or removed from) a mortal’s finger by the hand of a vampire. Once worn, the person takes on the Vampire subtype, complete with all the powers and drawbacks. Many, many years ago the NOSFERAT banned the use of these items, and confiscated all the known copies of them. The Countess apparently held on to one, and has lent the Crimson Shadow the ring for use in this one job… but just the fact that it is in their possession could spell trouble for anyone caught with it, let alone caught actually using it.
It’ll fall to Solina and Maelik Kileam to sort out the discretion/logistics the day of the job…
Blackspire Session 57 – Rendezvous Deja-Vu
St. Jezebel has a date with destiny. Maelik Kileam has a date with fate.
Lavaheart leads St. Jezebel to the monthly meeting of the various gargoyle “activist” groups. Hundreds of gargoyles of every stripe assemble at the Dragon Gate set into the huge 500′ wall surrounding the city of Blackspire, and is specifically set above the fiery Chasm within the confines of Chasm Keep. The gate is an enormous cylindrical tunnel that passes through the 100′ thick wall, and is bisected by a tremendous steel portcullis made of bars over a foot thick and gaps between them wide enough for a man to step through. The circular gap of the Gate is wide enough that a great wyrm dragon could fly through at full wingspan… so there is more than enough room for the hundreds of gargoyles to gather at the base of the enclosure or perch at some point up the sloping inclines.
Jezebel sees first hand the plethora of variations the gargoyle race is able to exhibit in a city as vast and various as Blackspire. While most would be considered the traditional Grotesque breed of gargoyle, as her races’ aesthetics are vastly influenced by the architecture they are hatched in conjunction with, the varied and often ghastly appearance of the assembled throng proves to be a sound reflection on the character of the city. Those gargoyles considered Chimerae or Animalia are often much larger creatures, and often seemed to have traded their wings for a vastly improved climbing ability, but Jezebel even sees the odd rare Imagos among the gargoyle ranks.
A rather confusing and chaotic series of discussions ensues between various gargoyle groups, and their topics range from ways to help improve the way of life for gargoyle-kind to open talk about organizing a city-wide strike of all gargoyle service until certain demands (namely cease taking advantage of the gargoyle’s dependency on the home they are born into) are met. Arguments are heated on all sides, and as any gargoyle who is assembled that wishes can have his or her voice heard, the talks drag on for hours. While St. Jezebel’s sudden appearance gathers quite a bit of notice, she opts to not speak herself. However, with Laveheart’s help, she is able to start to put together the structure of the various gargoyle Clans, and many of the most powerful voices and/or personalities of each group.
Barroqari Clan – perhaps the most “traditional” of the Blackspirian gargoyle clans, the Barroqari tend to be freedom-loving warriors (typically with a mercenary’s attitutes), and are often the most vocal when it comes to talk surrounding ideas of gargoyles collectively taking control of their own fates.
- Palisade – a gargoyle actually of Chasm Keep, despite his association with the Blackpirian Armed Forces he is very vocal in insisting that the gargoyle people need their own “homeland” (some enormous building that they themselves “own”). He also speaks out openly against the work of the gargoyles St. Rectory of the Seminary and Corbel of “Guards & Wards”.
- Turret and Rampart – both of the Bank of Blackspire, these gargoyles seem to be pragmatic strategists willing to assess calculated risks, but also willing to hear both sides of an argument, so they also regularly encourage dissenting opinions to whatever the current topic of discussion is.
- Murderhole – a gargoyle who killed his own master and took over ownership of his home. Considered a hero to some, and a psychopath to others, Murderhole now runs his own mercenary company through the Sellsword Fraternity called the Silent Sentinels… and is now made up of more than just gargoyles, though a good portion of them still are (and are here in attendance) including many of his own sons and daughters. Lavaheart whispers that it is said that Murderhole has captured dozens of females from many other Clans over the years, and by now has birthed a small army of sons in his mansion.
- Dovecoat – a gargoyle of the ancient Harkadies Manor, she openly argues against any policy (gargoyle or otherwise) that requires female gargoyles to surrender their breeding rights. As only one in four gargoyles are born female, Dovecoat argues the female perspective is often overlooked when it comes to decisions that strengthen the Clan… especially since a singular group of gargoyles is not even considered a tribe unless they have at least one fertile female in their number.
- Pyke – this gargoyle is the leader of the Sentinels of Deviant’s Crossing, the dangerous stretch of bridge that is the only connection between Deviant’s Isle and the mainland. It is the tradition of both the Pirates Guild and the Thieves Guild to pay a tribute/toll to the Sentinels each time the bridge is crossed, and Pyke regularly “insists” this tradition is observed by anyone and everyone found crossing “his” bridge. Pyke also seems to share the sentiments of the rest of the denizens of Deviant’s Isle (the only place on the city where the laws of Blackspire do not extend), which is generally “fuck Blackspire”.
- Abatis – little is known about this gargoyle, but is it is widely whispered that he is actually an assassin for the Guild of Silence. He speaks very little, but when he does he tends to insist that the Obelisk is the true master of the city, and that they need only obey him, not worry over the master of whatever home they live in that happens to dwell in the shadow of the Spire.
- Penthouse – a gargoyle born amidst the luxurious mansions of the coveted Master’s Ward (the most elite and exclusive neighborhood in the city). Considered vain and spoiled by most other gargoyle-kind, Penthouse rarely raises his voice at these meetings other than to make the occasional snide remark of derision, but otherwise remains aloof concerning the matters at hand. However, he does seem eager to meet any new female gargoyles he’s never encountered at these meetings before…
- Bretéche & Machicoulis – clutch mates from the High City Walls, while they are very vocal detractors of both Palisade and Murderhole, they tend to offer no real insights of their own. They do however seem to speak for the vast collection of other gargoyles born atop the High City Walls.
Façade Clan – if a gargoyle’s apprearance truly is a reflection of the architecture of its home, perhaps nowhere else is this better exhibited than in the various, beautiful, and often terriying visages of the members of the Façade Clan. Those of this clan believe that architecture is “frozen music” and that gargoyles by extention are a “living symphony” of notes struck by The Meld itself.
- Filligri & Frieze – sister and brother clutch-mates that hail from the Museum of Triumphs, but have no official association with that Dark Alliance War Memorial. In fact many gargoyles laugh that the tribe of the museum top are treated much like “pigeons” by the owners of the building… a nuisance, but impossible to eradicate, so just tolerated to certain extents. These sibilings are the “firebrands” of the gargoyle community, and loudly call for collective gargoyle emancipation at all costs.
- Doric & Ionic – two gargoyles that hail from the Concillium Magus (the seat of the Blackspirian Senate) itself. They often appear to echo the popositions of Filligri and Frieze, though not nearly as loudly.
- Amaglyph – this gargoyle is actually half-earth mephit, and while she does actually hail from the Academy of War Magic, Lavaheart gossips that Amaglyph was actually the result of a gargoyle breeding program overseen by the war wizards to create a breed of servitile, yet magically enhanced, gargoyle servants. Amaglyph actually boats a membership among the company of war wizards, and she widely argues for gargoyles to cease their “whining” and find more productive ways to be of use to the city.
- Parfinakis – quite well known in the gargoyle community, Parfinakis is actually half-green dragon, the son of a gargoyle female from the rooftops of the University of Blackspire and a dragon named Zaalthroak, called “Quickcock” (who apparently raped his mother as part of a fratenity hazing). “Parfinak” actually means “decoration” in Draconic (the only thing his father ever gave was his name) but the young gargoyle’s egg had matured just above the Univerity kitchen’s chimney, and that coupled with his sensitive draconic nose gave him a masterful sense of smell, which proved invaluable to him when he pursued a career as an alchemist. While he does also moonlight as a “magic” bartender at a number of high society functions, the very large tribe of University gargoyles all trust Parfinakis to speak on their collective behalf at these gatherings (and generally wish for better treatment overall).
- The Great Library Tribe – this impressive collection of gargoyles (and their golem servants) each on their own has an imposing presence at these gatherings. They openly argue for peace, civility, and diplomacy, but many others see them as complicit with the Dark Alliance, and by extension contributing to their collective oppression.
- Incunabula – when his wings are folded about his frame, this Imagos resembles the marble statue of a wizened bearded philosopher in a long flowing toga, and the gargoyle represents himself as such whenever he speaks (ponderously, and at length)…
- Cameo – this Imagos is incredibly thin and lithe, and when she folds her wings about her, she resembles a mable bust upon a scolloped pedastal. Often a voice of calming reason, even among those with cause to distrust her tribe.
- Screech & Shriek – these two Chimerae resemble huge stone griffons, but as they can unfortunately only speak Auran, they typically just rely on their compatriots to relay their generally infrequent sentiments.
- Leopold – this Animalia resembles a huge stone lion with an enchanted mane of roiling flames. Usually content to either grunt or snarl his approval or disapproval, when talks between groups errupt into shouting matches bordering on violence, the boom of Leopold’s spine-tingling roar is usually enough to return the gathering to a state of (somewhat petrified) calm.
- ETCH & KAST – free-willed glass and clay golems that seem to serve as the tribe’s security, and while they clearly understand the goings-on of these gatherings, they never add their voices to it.
- Undercroft – this gargoyle speaks collectively for the various tribes and lineages that make their home among the multitudious manors, mansions, and magical towers of Mage Town. The Mage Town gargoyles’ appearances vary from the baroque and gothic, to the downright alien and horrible, but they all seem to take pride in the symbiotic relationship many of them have been able to forge with the various aristocratic lineages of the city. Undercroft’s tribe for instance, can boast centuries of service to the illustious noble line of necromancers (and founders of the College of Necromancy) House Graithe. Undercroft’s opinions concerning “dissonant” talk can vary from open ridicule to heated shouting matches, to even leveling veiled threats at his ideological opponents.
- Mezzanine – representative of the tribe of gargoyles that makes their home above (and within) the Grand Opera House, she is widely known to be a talented bard in her own right. Mezzanine councils peace with the masters of the city, and cites her own tribe’s unbroken 300 year lineage with the Meld of the Opera House as the city’s shining example of ideal gargoyle civilization.
- Finial – a second generation Citadel Born gargoyle, but a fiercely vocal detractor of that entire “institutionalized slave-warrior breeding program” and especially of those gargoyles who continue to support it. Lavaheart confides that Finial and Battlement have come to blows on more than one occasion, and wouldn’t be surprised if the young firebrand ended up dead one of these days…
- Bás – this gargoyle speaks for the tribe that makes its home amidst the walls and turrents of Pickett’s Manor in the Vider’Ran District… however their lineage goes back even farther than that to the old (and haunted) Pickett Castle that now looms abandoned over the now lawless Pickett’s Ward. Bás regularly argues that the lords of the city rely on the “free” service of gargoyles far too heavily, and as such they have leverage over their masters, and if they are clever enough they can leverage that into earning their genuine respect, and thus improve the overall lot of the tribe whose home they share.
- Baily – a gargoyle of the Mint, she councils to the others that in Blackspire financial pressure is often stronger than force. She suggests the gargoyles take a cue from the blue dragons and pool their meager resources together to simply purchase a new “homeland”. A transaction she gladly volunteers to facilitate…
- Chalet, Chatelet, & Chateux – these two females and one male resemble bejewled statues encrusted with a plethora of various precious gems. They hail from a mansion owned by the famous gnome gemcutter Jebjujar… whom they collectively refer to as “Father”.
- Brother Capstone – speaker for the draconic-looking gargoyles of the Dragonbridge, which spans across the fiery Chasm, Capstone also speaks for the mysterious tribe of “naturalist” gargoyles collectively referred to as the “Chasmites”. These gargoyles shun Melding with “unnatural” architecture, and instead lay their eggs within the natural cracks, fissures, and caverns of the Chasm, the Cleft, and even elsewhere… When these gargoyle freeze still, they are often completely indistinguishable from their rocky surrounds.
- Apiary – perhaps the oddest gargoyle of this entire Clan, his features have more in common with those of a giant insect than anything remotely “demonic/bat-like”. Apiary makes his home in the Arboretum Districts within an enormous hive of dire bees that is maintained (and harvested) by the Meadbeard family of dwarves with the help of his tribe. Oddly enough, Apiary is also a druid of the Path of the Beast and he has an unusual bond with all insect-kind.
Intaglio Clan – those of this tribe tend to focus less on their relationship with a single structure and instead see themselves as integral parts of the larger city infrastructure. They generally hold to views of universal cooperation with the various powers of Blackspire to a level other clans (even pro-Dark Alliance ones) see as sycophantic.
- Scaffold – this gargoyle’s tribe claims to trace its lineage from the original tribe that legends state first gained sentience in the caverns beneath the World Tree. In more modern times Scaffold’s sizable tribe makes its homes among the various domiciles owned by the Blackflame family of dwarves, and boast of many tribes of “cousins” among the caves of the former dwarven empire of Nifelheim. Scaffold’s people also claim to have very strong ties with the Fraternity of Guilds (particularly the Masons), though many have their doubts.
- Truss – this gargoyle speaks for a large but very loose collection of various gargoyles known as the Free Settlers of Stone Town. Making their homes among the various storehouses, strongholds, and quarries of that neighborhood, the Free Settlers value hard, honest work and have over many years forged a symbiotic relationship with the neighborhood. Beholder patrols visit this part of the city quite infrequently indeed, so it is the Settlers in turn who serve as neighborhood watchmen, peace-keepers, mercantile escorts, and in times of civil disruption, they even band together to form brute squads to put down unrest in the Stone Town area (though their territory has even begun to expand into the Smelt district as well). It is Truss’s people who also boast of strong ties with the Fraternity of Guilds (including the Masons) and whose position (in that regard) is more widely accepted by the other clans and tribes.
- Corbel – this gargoyle is a “lifelong employee” of a business called “Guards & Wards” located in the Slave District of the city. It is famously owned by a derro (deep dwarf) named Torkōs and an illithid named Q’spleg Assurance, and together they specialize in outfitting many of the myriad homes and businesses of the city with defensive security systems, both magical and mundane. Among their many “defensive creatures” for sale are gargoyle slaves (including the occasional Citadel Born) complete with the “disconnected” Birthstones to go with them, as well as actual unbonded gargoyle eggs that can merge with, and then be imprinted upon, the owner’s new home.
- Lattice – this lascivious gargoyle speaks for a tribe made up entirely of females that make their home among the labyrinthine structure of the Iniquiden. To many, these females appear to be little more than an extended harem for the fearsome Sultan of Sin, but additionally Lattice does claim to hold membership in the elite and highly exclusive secret society of pleasure-seekers called the Libertine Society.
- Sallyport – the gargoyles of her tribe make their homes among the various docks and waterfronts of the city shipyards. These gargoyles are unique among their kind as, instead of a building, they tend to actually Meld with some manner of sailing vessel. Sallyport herself resembles something akin to a carved wooden figurehead that might grace the bowsprit of a grand sailing vessel, though her tribe also contains avian-like Animalia and aquatic-looking Chimerae (whose “wings” look more suited to swimming rather than flying).
- Chisel, Chase, & Graven – collectively, these three gargoyles speak for the assorted tribes of gargoyles that make their homes among the various “highway bridges” that criss-cross the city between the myriad great tower stuctures throughout the city, and which are primarily (though not exclusively) traversed by the upper classes of society. While lacking a strong, cohesive voice, nonetheless these three are all concerned with where and how citizens can move about the city, but as to whether the gargoyles about should merely serve as structural cartakers, be silent protective sentinels, or actually be active toll-extractors varies widely between them.
Chapéllarae Clan – the gargoyles of this clan profess a deep respect and relationship with the Meld. As such, they are considered the most “religious” of the gargoyle Clans, though the ways these sentiments actually manifests varies widely from tribe to tribe. Jezebel notes in many ways the members of this Clan most closely resember her own Cathedrali, as they seem to boast many more Imagos than other clans (the Tribe of the Great Library being a notable exception).
- Friar Nave – this gargoyle claims to be a stone cleric who makes his home in the infamous, and very rarely visited, Plaza of Idols (one of only three known enterances into the Necropolis, the others being the Gate of Blades, and the Long Walk within the College of Necromancy). Friar Nave (rather unpopularly) believes that all the other Clans (and Tribes) have lost their true connection to the Meld, and rather than focusing on “a single artifice” his tribe claim to Meld with the collective spirit of the entire city.
- Bishop Donjon – this Imagos appears to share many features in common with the alien illithids, which makes sense as Donjon makes him home in the Quasetorium (headquarters of the Incolumníta) and shares many philosophies in common with those illithid inquisitors. He is considered aloof, even concerning situations that seem to affect him directly, and only appears to be concerned with “the good of the herd”.
- Sister Steeple – this gargoyle’s skin seems to have more in common with crystal rather than stone, but she is a well-known associate of Bishop Donjon and their tribes generally seem to support one another. She hails from the Church of the All-Mind, and is rumored to wield powerful psychic powers that she learned from the illithid masters of that place.
- St. Rectory – this gargoyle hails from the infamous Seminary where working in conjunction with a medusa (and famous art critic) named Madame Migorortus III of the Gemmati, they utilize many ancient ruins and various different styles of architecture to breed and then train custom gargoyle slaves to suit their various customers’ tastes. Attempting to deliberately affect a gargoyle’s traits in this manner is called “Idolatry” among gargoyle-kind, and the practice is fairly unpopular among the various Clans. St. Rectory works closely with Corbel (especially in matters of “indoctrination” of slaves) and he has his own tribe of “brain-washed” gargoyles who seek to benefit from his wealth and influence. He also boasts of being a powerful druid of the Path of Survival, with close ties to the Grovemaster.
- Belfry – this bat-like gargoyle is shunned by many and feared by all. Belfry hails from the Black Palace and is widely believed to also be a vampire, and additionally is suspected to have ties to the NOSFERAT (the vampire secret police). He is said to speak for the other gargoyles of the Black Palace, but Belfry always comes alone to these meetings, and never speaks up unless he is first adressed.
- Father Crypt – this frightening Imagos has the appearance of a cloaked black skeletal figure complete with feathered wings. He completes the “grim reaper” image by bearing an hourglass and carrying a long scythe. He hails from the Black Stage, and while once many years ago the tribe he spoke for was quite large, they have all long since died out, leaving only Father Crypt to carry on. However, he has long outlived any other normal gargoyle’s life-span by decades, and many suspect the Imago’s skeletal appearance is perhaps more than just cosmetic. While he rarely speaks, he does appear to take a rather pointed interest in St. Jezebel, though no one can say why…
- Brother Skitter – this wing-less Animalia resembles an enormous stone spider, and is one of the gargoyles that makes its home in the Cathedral of Lolth. Brother Skitter cannot speak, and he relies on his “interpreter” (a drider by the name of Malkovis Vrinn) to translate his Lolthian Sign Language.
- Apse – this gargoyle hails from the medusa-controlled Gorgatorium, and she claims to have a positive “working” relationship with Speaker Megali. Gargoyles are immune to petrification, and as such make excellent servants for the various medusa races. If that is the case however, many wonder why gargoyle-kind still does not have Plebeian representation in the Curiate Assembly.
- Vestibule – this charming Imagos makes his home in the Royal Apartments and is apparently quite well-liked by the semi-permanent foreign dignitaries living there. He believes that if gargoyle-kind wants the respect of Blackspire, then they have to take it. Most consider him foolish, but he thinks their best means to accomplish this is to actually steal a platinum dragon coin (and the voting power it represents) from some member of the Concillium Magus, though whom among the Blackspirian Senate might actually be weak enough for them to target, Vestibule has no thoughts on…
Clanless Gargoyles – sometimes called the “Municipoli”, these gargoyles make up all those without a true tribe or clan, also usually without a “traditional” home, or in many cases these gargoyles’ Birthstones have actually been tragically destroyed. While still able to Meld with other places, a gargoyle without a Birthstone is considered something of an “orphan” – forever cut off from their original “mother” connection to the Meld.
- Cesspit & Privy – this mated couple speak collectively for the group of gargoyles known as the “Gong Farmers”. They work with the city in places where there is no direct sewer access, and oversee the maintenence (and clearing out) of various public toilets throughout the city. They have a number of children by the names of Commode, Outhouse, Watercloset, Lavatory, and little Clivus Multrum… all hatched atop a prominent public restroom along the Street of Dark Symphonies…
- Garderobe – this angry gargoyle is technically another of the Gong Farmers, but unlike Cesspit & Privy is something of a political muckraker and pot-stirrer. Garderobe’s Birthstone was destroyed, and while he lays the blame for that squarely on the Barroqari, some whisper he is actually an outcast from one of those tribes. He is bitterly anti-Dark Alliance, and will openly mock any other gargoyle he views as complicit with them, and he has a particular dislike for Corbel.
- Stormdrain – this gargoyle’s home was completely disintegrated (including his Birthstone) by a squad of beholders that had something against the master of his former home. Stormdrain had been making his way forging a new, weaker Meld with parts of the city sewer system until he found work with the White Hydra Mercenary Company.
- Ziggurat – this mysterious Chimerae resembles a large sphinx made of obsidian. No one knows for sure where he makes his home, but as it seems to be somewhere subterranean, it is assumed he is missing his Birthstone. Ziggurat seems to speak only in riddles, but those infrequent responses are considered to be almost oracular in nature by many of the gargoyles, and heeded with great care and concern.
- Baspileros – while not actually a gargoyle, this minotaur activist seeks better representation for many of the second-class citizens of the city. He sees gargoyle-kind as a prime example of a group in need of this, and so he attends these meetings (at a special invitation) to make impassioned pleas to the various Clans to organize themselves into a single political voice… with limited success of late…
Citadel Born Gargoyles – While they all technically hail from the same location, this group of gargoyles is large (and different) enough to be considered its own Clan. 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 creatures born and bred at the Citadel – the tremendous High City structure which serves as the base of operations for the entire Blackspirian Armed Forces. While gargoyles have been associated with that place for nearly half a millennia, most Citadel Born can only trace their bloodlines back a half dozen generations. Nonetheless, all claim (though osmosis via the Meld) to be hatched with access to the collective military experience of all those who have come before them that shared in the Meld with the Citadel. The Citadel Born are perhaps the most vocal in their belief that the Obelisk is the true master of the city… and the Spire respects only the strong…
- Portico – a veteran hero of the yearly Gargoyle Games, it is to he that even the other Citadel Born look up to. Portico argues that gargoyle-kind must demonstrate strength to to city… and that any rights they want to enjoy must be taken, for they are never given. He also seems to feel that most of the other Clans lack what it will take to truly accomplish this, and as such are essentially deserving of their respective fates.
- Battlement – a proud gargoyle of few words, all of them strong, Battlement is regularly known to say “we are soldiers and soldiers obey” whenever faced with an argument that in any way goes against the wishes of the Blackspirian government (whatever its various forms). He’s even been known to back up his positions with violence, and has come to blows with rival gargoyles (especially the volatile Finial) on more than one occasion.
- Wyvern – a (presumably) mute Animalia, this gargoyle’s namesake is clearly based on his dragon-like appearance, and he will always back up any Citadel Born that finds itself in a physical altercation with other Clans.
- Crenelation – this cunning gargoyle regularly councils that war is coming to the Dark Alliance once more, and that there is a place for all of gargoyle-kind in the armies to come… and even hints that the War Wizards are constructing something miraculous that future generations of gargoyles could one day be a part of. He will say no more…
- Embrassure & Merlon – these simple brutes are considered twins as they both were hatched from the same egg. Their opinions seem to be easily swayed by any strong voice, but they generally default to agreeing with whatever Portico is saying at the moment.
- Lavaheart – this well-connected gargoyle is given leave to speak for Dragonglass, Magmind, Shard, and Shatter who were the Citadel Born “tribe” that once were bonded to the home of the late necromancer Parzifal the Glib. The fire that consumed their home also claimed their female Obsydny, so the group finding a new home at White Hydra Hall (which included gargoyle females) was something of a relief to them. Lavaheart clearly wants a better life for all gargoyle-kind, but is additionally supportive of the institutions that shape that way of life.
- Oubliette – though Citadel Born, this gargoyle now makes her home within the infamous Dungeon, repository for the city’s captured “criminal” elements. She is known to keep close council with the black dragon Obfuscallus, called “Shadow Wing” and her loyalty to him is rumored to supersede all others. She suggests gargoyle-kind organize itself into a valuable city-wide information network that would supplement (and therefore be of use to) groups like the Beholders patrols, the Draconic Inquisition, the Illithid Inquisition, and the NOSFERAT.
- The Barbican – though not actually present at these gatherings, this famous gargoyle has been elevated to the status of something of a folk hero among gargoyle-kind (especially the Citadel Born) and as such is regularly referenced. Legend states that many, many years ago the Barbican sought a deeper understanding with the Meld, and so decided to dedicate himself to the true “master of the city” and joined the Cult of the Spire. Other gargoyles since have imitated his example (none have returned) but it’s believed the Barbican did actually gain the approval of the Obelisk itself, and to this day waits perched atop the Spire (melded with the mind of his god) until he is summoned forth to act. In this respect he is slightly more of a “bogeyman” than a folk hero, as it’s become an urban legend that the second time you say the Barbican’s name aloud he notices you. Upon the third utterance he has seen you, upon the fourth he know knows you, and upon the fifth he appears… and if he has not been summoned with good reason he will destroy any who would seek to disturb his communion with the Spire. Even though most gargoyles dismiss this story as an “old wives tale”, nevertheless not even the most vocally skeptical gargoyle seems to want to risk saying “The Barbican” aloud five times in a row…
However, elsewhere the time has come for Maelik Kileam’s “date” with Countess St. Lovebane. Having brushed up on the vampire poet’s work (especially the one purportedly written about the Countess) and assembled the right costume to look the part, the doppleganger is prepared as he’s ever going to be to masquerade as Lustromo. A disgusted Solina does her part to get MKKM to the Iniquiden, but once the doppleganger has “changed” she slips the Ring of the Vampire Bride onto his finger, and high-tails it out of there, abandoning him to face his fate alone.
So much the better…
“Lustromo” is gathered in due time by one of the Countess’s staggeringly beautiful elven slave-servants, and led down floor after floor until reaching the brothel’s lowest levels (literally and figuratively). It is worth restating that the Iniquiden is an enormous labyrinthine structure that caters to every imaginable form of sexual proclivity and perverse kink that the darkest mortal mind could conceive of… and believe me, the PCs offered up a whole litany of incredibly depraved suggestions, but I promised them “you can get all that upstairs”… for here in the deepest bowels of the Iniquiden the members of the elite Libertine Society practice a whole new level of sexual depravity… one that is beyond the imagination of any consciousness that walks the earth…
One which drives others to madness…
As Maelik Kileam is led through the basement’s long serpentine hallways, emerging from the rooms on his either side he hears such sounds and glimpses such sights out of the corner of his eye as he passes that they threaten to drive him mad as well. Fortunately he has the presence of mind to not gaze upon any of those horrifying delights directly, though he does manage to catch half a glimpse of the eerie magical symbol above each doorway that is utilized by the Libertine Society, over which is written their motto:
“All is permissible, so long as it is to excess.”
After what seems like an eternity, Maelik Kileam is eventually led past these abominable sights to the doors leading into the Countess St. Lovebane’s private boudoir. This lavishly appointed apartment has the additional feature of being connected by small victrola-shaped tubes which pipe in the noises coming from all the surrounding rooms. From desperate gasps of purest ecstasy, to shrieks of boundless soul-scarring pain, eerie ritual chanting, hauntingly beautiful lilting songs, and even passages that seem to be lines from some alien play… all these sounds threaten to entrance the listener, were it not for the imposing presence of the Countess arresting the doppleganger’s full attention. Maelik Kileam really has his work cut out for him as well, as the “furious” Countess insists that Lustromo is dead… and that he must be an imposter… how dare he?
Eventually though, after enough “convincing”, MKKM is able to “win her over” and the voracious sexual encounter that followed would not be fit to recount… if such a thing were even possible. However, in between these bouts of “lovemaking” Countess St. Lovebane asks that “her Lustromo” recite for her one of his classic poems after another, after another…
Eventually however, even Lustromo’s extensive catalog of work is exhausted, and so finally Lovebane asks for a story she has never heard before. Without missing a beat, MKKM reaches into his satchel to produce his copy of Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales. The leaves start to flip open almost by themselves until stopping at a bookmarked page, whereupon Maelik Kileam begins to read…
Once upon a time...
Blackspire Session 58 – Twice Upon A Time
Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales Presents:
“The Tale of the Refugee Princes”
So the time had come where our assorted PCs and NPCs are once again swept up into the fairy tale world that exists within the curse pages of Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales. However, rather than thrust them into a completely “imaginary” scenario, this time I decided the book would have the PCs “live through” a famous historical event… the fall of the dwarven city of Kazak-Dur (which also features prominently in the play Damon II). While this battle is a very important event in the history of the Blackspire world, I’d never actually worked out some of the finer points of the characters, armies and battles, etc… So while like the previous session of this story-telling device I did use the Fairy Tale Story Dice to articulate some of the details of the story’s plot, it was surprisingly serendipitous to see how well what we had rolled lined up with much of what I’d already written.
Additionally, as a GM I’m typically loathe to use anything like pre-written “flavor text” to describe scenes in my games, but given the format of this adventure I thought I’d indulge a little and have the major transitional beats of the story written out beforehand using more “story-book” language, which I think worked nicely.
Once upon a time in those dark days when the sky first went black, the world was enveloped in War. Mechanical armies marched over the face of Terregastia while dragons filled the skies with destruction. Schisms divided the Worldtree's children against themselves, while out of the Underdark came the armies of Drow, Mind-flayers, Beholders, and the ruthless Legion of Undead. A Dark Alliance had been forged. The Elven tribes fought valiantly to defend their homes, their peoples, and their countless sacred sites when the Drow came for them, but because High Elf and Wood Elf, Wild Elf and Moon Elf could not stand together... they died apart. Elven dynasties that had lasted 100,000 years were all but extinguished, and for the first time in all that time, the elves had no aristocracy to lead them. For the elves had forgotten the Eldest Oath, and so the Spire had risen again... What elves survived the massacres fled east to the druids who guarded the Worldtree, but to their horror found that the Dark Alliance had visited a great Doom upon it as well, and that ageless Tree from which the races of Elves, Men, Dwarves, and countless others had all sprung now lay in ashes. For the greenfolk had forgotten the Eldest Oath, and so the Spire had risen again... But the druids carried a secret hope, for the very day the sky went black, the Worldtree had dropped a precious Lifeseed, which if it could be secreted away to a place untouched by the Dark Alliance there it might take root and a new Lifetree sprout anew. They would seek their brother druids of the Hellscar Crater which lay beyond the most eastern of the dwarven mines. And so elf and druid fled south with their precious charge seeking the aid of the Sun Priests of Solaris, whose power would be needed in this dark world if what they sought to plant could hope to survive. But the men of the Theocracy fared little better, for the lands west of the sacred river were overrun by mechanical soldiers, while to the east the Legion swarmed the land and marched upon the Holy City. Many saints and heroes, gargoyles and dragons gave their lives in defense of the city of Solon, but to no avail. Of the five holy Dragonknights sworn to defend the White Cathedral... dragons who could trace their lineage from angelic ancestory... only the bronze survived to lead what remained of the Solarian clergy and faithful congregation away from their doomed capitol. For priests had forgotten the Eldest Oath, and so the Spire had risen again... Twas fate then that brought the refugee armies together in their flight from the might of the Dark Alliance and the sacred task before them all was clear. Axxigahr, called "Stormbreath" the bronze Dragonknight would seek the aid of Good King Damon I of Navulon on their way to the dwarven city of of Kazak-Dur and then onward to the Crater where he knew gold dragons awaited them. And so they set their sights east to the city of Drakesmark, but upon arrival found those gates were shut to them. Instead of the proud royal standard of the House Drakesmoor, the sigils of disloyal bannermen now flew from the ramparts of Navulon's capitol. Civil strife bled the city red and its people were scattered to the four winds, as orcs and their kin swept out of the mountains to freely raid across the countryside. For men had forgotten the Eldest Oath, and so the Spire had risen again...
But where, oh where was the heroic Prince Damon II when the Navulonian people and even his own family needed him the most? As was the custom of the Drakesmoor kings, the worthiest son would take up the ancestral sword NAVULON and seek experiences abroad that would make him a better king. Twas the sword itself that would chose its bearer, and lend its wisdom and counsel (and occasionally magic) to every matter of import to the Prince. And not since perhaps the first Navulonian kings had any man been so worthy to bear the sword as the paladin Prince Damon II. Only the gods themselves could concoct a tragedy worthy of such a prince. But the gods are fickle and cruel... Since his youth the prince had always adventured with his two closest comrades. The first was the young high elf Prince Dolâthin Kithréll of the Sapphire Unicorn Tribe. The King of the Elves had sent his great-nephew to be fostered in Navulon, and there he pursued the study of both the martial and magical arts with equal discipline. Prince Damon's other other loyal companion was the violet-bearded dwarf Thordin Ironbeard, himself also a noble of sorts as the Ironbeards had once been kings of the dwarves... once but long ago. But Thordin had set aside his familial duties when he joined the Grudgekeepers of Kazak-Dur and took oaths to right the wrongs done to his people. Many trials did these three overcome, much honor and song did follow their exploits. During their many adventures, Prince Damon didst meet and fall in love with the mermaid Princess Arylyn, and theirs was a love so pure and so true that it threatened to doom the world. The merfolk of Myrlantea and the sailors of Navulon had long been at odds, and so the prince's betrothal to the mermaid princess promised both nations a new era of peace. But Arylyn had the gift of foresight, and had long foreseen a doom that would befall the peoples of Triton's Reef at the hands of their ancient foes, the Races Primordial. Determined to defend his true love's people, Prince Damon and his companions were battling armies of fish-folk when the sky went black, and only once Myrlantea was beyond all hope of saving did the prince, his princess, and their loyal companions turn their ship westward towards Navulon... only to be met with unwelcome banners flying above the walls of his home and chromatic dragons prowling the skies. Princess Arylyn did then realize the true scope of the doom that had befallen the world. She did then make three grim prophecies, and didst wrestle with the truthes of these revelations... And so it was that the Prince and his companions did encounter the refugees of all the Worldtree's children as they fled north along the River Kragg towards the dwarven city of Kazak-Dur. The Navulonians rejoiced to find their saintly prince returned to them, and Stormbreath and the Solonians took his timely arrival as divine providence. Thordin Ironbeard learned of the unspeakable crime committed against the Worldtree and Prince Dolâthin grieved to learn the fate of his own people as well. The elf prince was also shocked to learn where once he'd been 14th in line for the throne, it would now seem he was the last and only candidate of his tribe left to take on the mantle of King of the Elves and bear its heavy burden. Onward marched the refugees with the armies of the Dark Alliance ever close on their heels. All their hopes rested on receiving the amnesty of their dwarven neighbors. The Spire had risen again... but did the dwarves still remember the Eldest Oath..?
At this point I gave each PC a note card with the alter ego they would be assuming for this adventure. G’eldatar found himself in the role of Prince Dolâthin Kithréll, Marv was the dwarf Thordin Ironbeard, Melaria was the mermaid Princess Arylyn, while Stormtooth was unsurprisingly cast as the bronze dragon Stormbreath. However, it was actually Solina who found herself in the role of Prince Damon II, while Maelik Kileam instead found himself as the spirit of the wizard Navulon which was bound within the Prince’s enchanted sword. Additionally, as a mermaid Princess Arylyn lacked mobility on land, and as such it fell to Prince Damon to carry her in his arms.
Each character card had a brief list of Goals, Motivations, and Powers for the PCs to base their decisions on. A few examples are below.
Additionally the Thordin Ironbeard player was given some additional resources concerning dwarf-kind, including a map of his home city of Kazak-Dur and a breakdown of the various dwarven clans, as well as the words of the Eldest Oath.
All children of the Worldtree are of one family that shall unite against any common enemy. Sacrifice is the high price demanded of this Oath. We ignore the lesson of the Obelisk at our peril.
And so it was that the Refugee Princes and their people didst come to the source of the River Kragg. It was fed by a tremendous waterfall that cascaded over 500 feet down the mountainside, pouring forth out of the Gates of Light that marked the entrance to Kazak-Dur. It was flanked on either side by both a steep and narrow set of stairs, as well as by a series of hundreds of long leisurely switchbacks that wound up the mountainside... and both well within the sights of the twin keeps that flanked the lip of the falls, bristling with angry dwarven war machines, manned by angry dwarven warriors. It was known as well the dwarves could divert the waterfall to wash over the flights of stairs, sending any would-be interlopers who would dare ascend their stairs uninvited hurtling hundreds of feet downward to their death below. With thousands of starving refugees desperate for safety, for rest, and perhaps even the chance for a new home, how then could the Princes convince the dwarves to open their gates to them? And so the Destiny War continues...
After some (failed) experimentation with the “physics” of this story-book world, ultimately the PCs decided to attempt to treat with the dwarves of the defensive keeps. The Western Ascent was in command of a dwarf named Rorge Rockshield while the Eastern Ascent was under the protection of one Vuldar Foeskull. Eventually Prince Damon mounted on Stormbreath (and with the aid of Navulon’s Eagle’s Splendor) was able to invoke the Eldest Oath and convince the Rockshields to allow the refugees to gain access to Kazak-Dur via the Western Ascent before the pursuing armies of the Dark Alliance fell upon them.
Given freedom of the city provided they had a Rockshield escort, from here the PCs looked at the map and decided they would first pay a visit to the Shrine of the Eldest Oath where those hallowed words are inscribed in dwarven runes across the surface of a 20′ obsidian obelisk.
And then they did hear a great cry of anguish sweep Kazak-Dur from gates to bridges. Woe! Woe and thrice-be-damned, for the Ironbeards have betrayed the Emperor and opened the gates of Kazak-Mar to her foes... Lo! The capitol has fallen. Lo! Nifelheim has fallen! Fie! For we are the last dwarven city that still stands free... with enemies at all our gates! 10,000 Grudges against the Ironbeards! Death! Death! Death to the Ironbeards!!! And then all dwarves in company didst turn their eyes upon Thordin, and lo didst malice come to grip their hearts.
The PCs have to do some quick talking to avoid the Rockshields turning on Thordin, but his membership with the Grudgekeepers is his saving grace. If fact, one of Thordin’s story Goals was to ensure the sacred Book of Grudges does not fall into enemy hands. As such, they then make their way to the Hall of the Grudgekeepers, but found the book missing and the building empty save for a melting pile of snow which Thordin knew marked some Winteraxe’s long vigil cut short.
And then another cry went up, louder and more anguished than before, sweeping from gates to bridges. Woe! Woe and be damned seven-fold, for the Flamebloods have betrayed Kazak-Dur and have opened the gates of the Western Mines! 10 times 10,000 Grudges against the Flamesbloods! Death! Death! Death to the Flamebloods! Nay and still, for they have opened too the road to Kazak-Mar to our foes! Now beholders rampage through the city and 300 medusa mercenaries are turning the western neighborhoods to stone. And lo, the Princes looked and saw that it was so.
At this point a (somehow familiar) beholder appeared from the shadows… the “Evil Eyes” from Princess Arylyn’s vision. Prince Damon was the target of the beholder’s full assault of magical eye-beams, but the Princess’s foresight allowed her time to leap forth and place herself in the path of the beams. A fatal decision for her, but one which saved the Prince’s life.
Upon Princess Arylyn's death, she did speak forth one last prophecy. One day a Dark Harvester shall come. He shall rise up to judge his own kind and reset the Balance once more.
While the PCs were then able to deal with the beholder assassin rather handily, still the mermaid princess was gone. No time to mourn, Navulon uses Locate Object to divine the location of the Book of Grudges, which he learns is somewhere in the Stalagmite Cemetery. Upon visiting that sacred “burial” ground (dwarven corpses are interred beneath dripping stalactites so that over the centuries they become entombed withing the stalagmite that forms around them) they discover the last of the Grudgekeepers, a dwarf named Beorn Winteraxe (complete with that family’s signature Frost Axe). They explain the situation and Beorn agrees to go with them to the Hellscar Crater and to take the Book of Grudges with them… and so off they go…
And so, at long last the Refugee Princes didst find themselves at the gates to the Eastern Mines of Kazak-Dur, and somewhere beyond lay the Hellscar Crater, its druidic caretakers, and the protection of the gold dragons. But standing in their way was a legion of Flameblood warriors, their crimson beards bristling. Their leader, one Fjörk Flameblood, a legendary warrior in his own right, didst speak. Halt and come no further, for this way is shut to you. The city has fallen to my uncle Raxgim's allies and the Flamebloods are the rightful kings of Kazak-Dur once more! We shall dye our beards anew in the blood of the Gemfang usurpers, but if you surrender now and lay down your arms, as captives your people will be treated gently.
Their attempts to negotiate fail, and Fjörk says:
Nay, nay, I have given my word and you have heard it. Nay, for this way is shut to you. The only toll that can pay your way through now is blood!
And so a massive battle ensues. While the PC’s army will ultimately be victorious and gain access to the mines, Navulon reminds the Prince of the five drow assassins who Princess Arylyn prophesied were still coming for him, and must believe they have slain him. Together, using some of the snow formed by Beorn’s axe, they craft a Simulacrum of Prince Damon, and give that magical clone the sword NAVULON to wield in the fight to come. The clone returns to the city to await this attack while the Refugee Princes (presumably) escape to the Hellscar Crater.
Now for all this time, the good Prince Damon had been hunted by some of the deadliest killers ever to walk the earth. The five great Drow houses had each sent their finest assassin, their mission to eliminate the would-be resistance leader and each killer sought to claim the prince's enchanted sword for the glory of their House. And so, through stealth, subterfuge, and slaughter it was that these shadowy five didst come upon the lone bearer of Navulon in the darkened halls of Kazak-Dur. "With your death, O Prince, the victory of House D'Vosh shall be final and absolute." said the red-masked female with a bloodthirsty grin. "Discount not the honor of Houses J'Zemmel, Icorith, and Thathis." insisted the three males as they moved to encircle their target. "House Vrinn takes no pleasure in your demise, O Prince." said the final stone-faced female assassin. "But at the least, we can offer you a fine death." And with that they produced their long blades, sharp as spite, and set about their bloody work.
Needless to say, while the true details of this historical fight are lost to history, in Mother Gristle’s version, the Simularcrum prince is handily slaughtered. And before any one House could lay claim to the storied blade, Navulon uses his final spell Teleport Object, and magically whisks himself back into the possession of his rightful bearer, now many many miles away.
And with his “final” breath, Prince Damon II utters his most famous line:
I go to live with golden dragons.
Blackspire Session 59 – Dragonwar
Tiamat’s High (Un)Holy Day has arrived. Have you been an evil little dragon?
With a splitting headache, Maelik Kileam awakens in his natural doppleganger form nude on a divan which is in a tucked-away room on the ground floor of the Iniquiden. His clothing from the night before is all laundered and neatly folded beside him, as is all the gear he brought, including the copy of Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales. He does notice however, that the Ring of the Vampire Bride is missing, but frankly glad to be rid of it, the doppleganger quietly dresses and assumes an inconspicuous form to make his “walk of shame” back to White Hydra Hall.
Upon his return home, however, Maelik Kileam notices that of the various voices constantly chattering away in his head, the voice of his Lustromo personality is now noticeably silent, and in his place is the dottering voice of the ancient wizard Nauvulon, who even uses MKKM’s spell of Magic Mouth to speak “independently” through the bard’s replica sword… oh boy…
Meanwhile, the other White Hydra Mercenaries experience an even far more perplexing morning. Upon awakening, each of the PCs discover next to them is the sleeping body of an exact duplicate of themselves. Additionally, Solina discovers her clone appears to be a mortal, nineteen year old version of herself.
An incredibly paranoid Melaria doesn’t hesitate to eliminate this unknown variable, and puts a crossbow bolt through the brain pan of the doppleganger she discovered sleeping in the bed beside her. The necromancers take a far more measured approach, and after some investigation, G’eldatar is able to conclude that these duplicates are magical clones of themselves, and that if any of them were to be slain, their consciousness would awaken in this duplicate body.
The Crimson Shadow arrives shortly thereafter, and he and Solina are now faced with a choice. To live together as vampires, or to try to reclaim their mortality… and possibly even their humanity. After some deliberation, they both opt to live as vampires, and retire to the Guild of Silence to enjoy some intimate time feasting on the blood of their clones.
Maelik Kileam eventually makes his way to White Hydra Hall, and they are able to deduce that the clones were a “gift” from Mother Gristle for making it through yet another of her stories… two down, one to go…
It also seems Zarathusa is faced with a choice, or has at least been provided an opportunity… he also awoke in the hidden manor room to find a clone of himself floating nearby. However, is duplicate has all ten eye-stalks still intact, and if he were to inhabit that body, he would not only reclaim his full power, but technically would expand the web of his Ka-tet by three additional Sirrahs. The wheels are already turning in the beholder’s head…
Later that week, Stormtooth’s draconic obligations get tested to the absolute limit as the High Holy Day of Tiamat, the Festival of Dragonwar is upon him. The day begins with a gathering at the Temple of every dragon, vassal, seneschel, servant, slave, or otherwise is a worshiper (or under the control of a worshiper) of the dread five-headed dragon goddess Tiamat. Stormtooth learns from his mother that his Twice-Father has used his influence to secure the young dragon a place of honor in the Vanguard of this year’s Dragonhunt.
The Festival of the Dragonhunt is celebrated each year by releasing those creatures who have been imprisoned for apostasy, heresy, or any other (real or imagined) crime against the Church of Tiamat. The “goal” of the Dragonhunt is for the collective Dragonflights to give chase to the released prisoners for as long as they will flee, with the intention of driving them into a position where the “escapee” will either surrender or (preferably) turn and fight. While “accidents happen” it is considered ideal that the quarry be subdued in whatever manner the dragons see fit, but that they be returned alive to the Dungeon… to await next year’s Dragonhunt…
It is also customary that every worshiper pay a tribute of wealth to Tiamat’s Chosen, the red dragon Malfaerecor, called “Flameword” (or “He Whose Word is Flame”). From gifts of a single gemstone, to a king’s ransom in wealth and artifacts, one by one the treasures are piled up by the congregation upon the altar of Tiamat until it spills over into heaps and piles of treasure that could be considered worthy of any single dragon’s horde. All the while the dragons chant, hoping to rouse Tiamat’s Chosen for the Dragonhunt once again. Stormtooth makes his own (modest) contribution to Malfaerecor’s horde, and then joins in the chant. The chanting grows louder and louder until it reaches a fevered pitch that shakes the temple walls….
“Malfaerecor! Malfaerecor! MALFAERECOR!!!
Finally from deep beneath the chasm that bisects the Temple comes a roar in response to these chants… a roar so deep and mighty that it shakes the very earth. First an immense claw… and then the enormous head of the behemoth that is Malfaerecor rises from the depths into the Temple, and the triumphant roar of the congregation at the appearance of Tiamat’s Chosen sends a wave of Dragonfear through the city of Blackspire that chills the hearts of nearly every citizen. Far larger than even the largest great wyrm dragon, Malfaerecor’s mouth is so enormous that he could swallow a cloud giant whole with a single bite, and his wingspread is so wide that the entire titanic Temple space could not accommodate its full breadth. Additionally he sports all manner of enchanted armor and weapon attachments, and the flaming scimitar-like Necrosteel blades that sprout from Malfaerecor’s wings are more than half the length of a city block.
“Children of Tiamat” he rumbled in a voice that shook one to their very bones “let us celebrate Dragonwar once again!” With that the tremendous creature returns to the depths of the Chasm, and each and every dragon (or otherwise flying creatures) took up an armful of Malfaerecor’s treasure and followed him to the depths below to add it to his ever-growing mythic horde… and then follow Tiamat’s Chosen “to war”.
Stormtooth is then escorted to his place among that year’s Vanguard, and encounters the other Tiamatians who also share this honor (some were dragons I let the other PCs run for this encounter) and are assigned as a group to give chase, harry, and otherwise keep tabs on a single target during the Dragonhunt for the rest of the Flights (when they eventually catch up the the Vanguards). The traditional goal is to herd the quarries from the Temple down into the Chasm and then out through the Dragon Gate (which will be opened for today’s festivities) which is at the southern end of the fiery canyon. Once the quarries are chased beyond the walls of the city the real hunt for the remainder of the Flights can really begin.
A number of other quite devout dragons and other notable Tiamatians are among this year’s Vanguard (including the famous medusa gladiator Palsynia Kymygian riding upon her wyvern mount that she has named “Scorpio”) but the PC controlled dragons Stormtooth will fly with today are:
- Shar’Axxis & Axxishar, called the “Stormsong Sisters” – It seems that all of Skeyshaar, called “Skystorm”‘s children will be sharing the honor of the Vanguard this year and so Stormtooth’s jealous and cruel older sisters are here, and aren’t very likely to be “on his side” during the hunt.
- Scalluskheer, called “Scortchwing” – a red dragon of Skheerskey, called “Scortchsky”‘s brood, who harbors no love for the White Hydra mercenaries. Militarily trained, Scortchwing has a personal mission to outdo (and if he can, sabotage) Stormtooth today.
- Karater, called “Blackmind” – a cunning black dragon, here due to his merit (and his devotion to Tiamat of course).
- Ghepentanis, called “Greentooth” – a University trained green dragon sorcerer, who has a few magical tricks up his sleeve.
The quarries for this year’s Dragonhunt are then brought up from the dungeons beneath the Temple of Tiamat, and they include a number of belligerent wyverns, a few unruly chimera, and even a handful of broken-spirited white dragons who appear to perhaps be multiple year overturns of serving as quarry for the Dragonwar. Then Stormtooth sees a prisoner that takes his breath away…
Brought out in chains is a fierce female white dragon, her scales glimmer in the light like a mountain of pearls, her wings ripple like sheets of pale silk, and her eyes like deep pools of fresh cream narrow in hatred as she scowls in the direction of the Vanguard and hocks and icy glob of phlegm in their direction, which shatters on the Temple floor and pieces skitter across and come to rest between Stormtooth’s toes…
This is Hrontgith, called “Frostflake” a prisoner of war captured in Oathmaar during an uprising of the IceFire Rebellion. Stormtooth knows which target he’ll be harrying this Dragonwar.
All are led out of the Temple at this point, the chains of the prisoners are unshackled, and Vhrik’Nalsis, called “Queenspeaker” begins to recite the mysterious rites of this ancient draconic ritual which will signal the commencement of the Dragonwar. But Frostflake it seems is not big on observing this particular Tiamatian ceremony, for the very instant she is free of her chains she takes flight and has dived beneath the lip of the Chasm, vanishing from sight before barely anyone can react.
Roll for initiative…
Now, to simulate this chase I created a bunch of cards meant to represent different sections of the city of Blackspire. The dragons could move between sections in a number of rounds depending on their fly speed (Frostflake had barbarian levels and the Run feat, just FYI…). Each time they entered a new section they had to chose whether they were flying high or flying low, and then flip the card and make a Fly roll based on whatever penalties were specified by the direction they picked.
This was a fun little exercise as a “mini-game” of sorts. What follows is a summary of the resultant card flips and opposed die rolls (including a final all-out combat).
Thanks to a little alchemical gift from G’eldatar, Stormtooth had his own little magical boost to his speed and was quick after Frostflake. He almost lost sight of her in the haze of the smoky Chasm, but managed to spot her flying north in the opposite direction of the Dragon Gate. Stormtooth and the other PCs give chase and narrowly avoid colliding with the titanic Maelfarecor who emerges like a nightmare from the smoky depths of the Chasm with hundreds of dragons in tow making haste in the direction of the Dragon Gate to the south.
Stormtooth and the others ignore the masses and continue to give chase northward, avoiding huge magma bursts, weaving though the columns of the Dragon Bridge, and the general sabotage by members of the Vanguard to each other’s chances of catching up to Frostflake first. Even though Stormtooth eventually manages to take the lead over his fellow Vanguard members, it is all he can do to keep pace with the white dragon who he eventually notices has been making a beeline straight for the High City. In fact as they ultimately enter that part of town the white dragon actually makes her way towards The Obelisk itself and as she flies directly towards the entrance of the Cult of the Spire’s complex, begins to cry out “SANCTUARY!” over and over.
Stormtooth realizes to his horror that if the cultist guardians actually grant Frostflake sanctuary in their complex it would put their quarry beyond even the reach of the Church of Tiamat.
However, it seems that fate was not with Frostflake this day, for before she can close the distance to the cultists’ lair, the dragons are all buffeted by a gale force wind as great Malfaerecor drops out of the sky like some crimson meteor to block her way. The titanic rumble caused by his landing is enough to rattle the homes of nearly every citizen of Blackspire. Frostflake manages some deft aerial maneuvers and is narrowly missed by a colossal swipe of the red dragon’s Necrosteel wing-blade.
A spiraling Lolthian tower in the High City is not so fortunate however (as the PCs currently watching this “Godzilla-like” event from the relatively safe distance of White Hydra Hall would also observe) as the building lists sideways slightly from the impact of Malfaerecor’s missed blow and then topples over with a mighty crash.
Frostflake changes direction and begins to fly south into the Lower City as the other dragons in the Vanguard give chase or change course to intercept her. She leads them all on a merry chase through the many tight avenues and various obstacles of the city, trying to loose them, all the while Malfaerecor keeps pace with her high above, waiting for his chance to strike. Eventually she leads them to the Dragon Bank itself and in a feat of pure anger and adrenaline (read: she has an ability where she can ignore the hardness of an object once per rage) smashes her way right through the building’s front door and goes tumbling into the lobby.
“Good thing the Bank is closed today for the holiday” observes Stormtooth, but it seems perhaps that once again Frostflake has chosen wisely, for while she has certainly cornered herself in a building he has more than a passing familiarity with, she has also probably chosen to hide in one of the very few structures in the city Malfaerecor might think twice about before he demolished his way into. It seems it was up to Stormtooth and the rest to the Vanguard to go in after her.
It was a bank holiday, the most important day of the year for all of Tiamat’s worshipers, so it’s fair to say the complex was pretty deserted. The few security on site weren’t prepared for anything like this, and so speed and surprise continued to be on Frostflake’s side as she smashed her way deeper and deeper into the Dragon Bank. Eventually the Vanguard managed to corner her inside, and a fierce battle ensued, but because the Vanguard couldn’t work as a team, Frostflake managed to slip through them, and began to flee back the way she came, with Stormtooth nipping at her heels.
As Frostflake emerged out the front door again and began to take to the air, without warning the head of Malfaerecor appeared and with a snap of his jaws snatched her out of the sky. Stormtooth saw the mortally wounded white dragon impaled on a fang that was longer than he was before Malfaerecor flicked his mighty neck and sent her careening into a nearby wall and collapsing its masonry on top of her. Stormtooth stood over her unmoving (yet still breathing) body, and resisted the urge to finish her off… remembering that a successful Dragonhunt means capturing your quarry alive so they can be returned for the hunt next year…
Eventually more dragons arrive and Frostflake is taken into custody and Stormtooth finds that while he is neither overtly applauded for assisting in the white dragon’s capture, nor does he find himself scolded for failing to ferry her through the Dragon Gate in the first place. In either respect Malfaerecor does not spare the young blue dragon a single glance, and with the Dragonwar ended as far as he is concerned flies back to his lair in the Chasm. Stormtooth decides to skedaddle as well when his Twice-Father arrives with the rest of the Blue Dragon Flight to inspect the damage done to the Bank…
Before he leaves however, he does hear murmurs concerning whether the dragons should consider this entire incident as an act of war on behalf of the IceFire Rebellion…
Later, Count Zarathusa and Maelik Kileam hatch a scheme to fake the doppleganger’s death during the upcoming Grumchucker Gladiatorial Championship in a way that will both assuage the dwarven wrath angled in their direction as well “kill off” his troublesome dwarven gladiker persona. They enlist the help of Liff the elf as well as their new dwarven friend Axl Ironbeard (who also stands to score a few points with his people if they pull this off).
Meanwhile, in making final preparations for his fight against the current champion of the Grumchucker Arena, Marv pays a visit to Gregus’s Forge and ends up spending the vast majority of his hard-earned fortune on magical items and upgrades to his equipment to aid him in what everyone promises will be the fight of his life. Marv has proven himself to be a good and loyal customer of the fire giant for some time now, and with a serious specter of death looming over the troll’s head, Gregus decides to come clean to Marv about something.
While Gregus had admitted in the past to having known of Marv’s famous father Vram, the truth is the two of them were actually well acquainted… though they were more like “frenemies” as once Vram had tried to steal something very precious from Gregus’s vaults.
It seems Vram did not chose his “stage name” lightly, as in the ancient giant religion Vram was the name of the god of trolls, and beyond just becoming a champion gladiator of Grumchucker Arena (and later the Red Sands Coliseum) Marv’s father had also dedicated his life to trying to reassemble the pieces of what is known as the Armor of the Troll-King.
Gregus produces an ancient tome highlighting the lineage of the Kings of Trollengaard. Therein are depictions of various troll warriors each sporting various combinations of a suit of armor made from that mysterious alloy of adamantine and mithirl, and in many of the illustrations Marv can see that the trolls are wearing his claws and/or grinning with his metal jaws. While the pieces themselves are not inherently magical, also in the different drawings the armor seems to sport various colored spikes on the helmet, shoulder plates, and indeed even protruding forward from the wrists of the metal claws which do seem to enchant the individual pieces somehow. Gregus confirms that each metal spike is indeed forged of a different Vril metal and in each of the different drawings the spikes are usually in different places (or are altogether missing). Gregus reveals what he knows about the Armor of the Troll-King.
Armor of the Troll-King
- Helm of the Troll-King – equal parts armor and crown, the helm has a single spike slot which legends say makes the wearer immune to whatever element the inserted Vril spike is attuned with. A troll must possess at least three pieces of the Armor (not including spikes) to declare himself king, and one of those three must be the Helm. The last to wear it was King Fjorn the Scarless who fell in battle to Sir Heldred Frostheard of Jarlund during the Great War and the helm was lost, though Gregus has heard rumors it had been secreted away by those loyal to Fjorn to somewhere in the Glacier Lands.
- Jaws of the Troll-King – how Vram came into possession of the Jaws the fire giant does not know, but since the troll was unable to find a chirurgeon both competent and quick enough to perform the operation himself, he instead left the Jaws to his son(s) Murt & Glurt for safe-keeping until he did. Since Murt & Glurt had two heads, Vram gambled they’d never be able to agree on whose mouth should get them. That remained true it seemed, until they met their half-brother Marv…
- Spaulders of the Troll-King – each should piece of the Armor sports three separate spike slots, each of which is said to provide limited protection to whatever element the inserted Vril spikes are attuned with. Gregus confesses Vram once possessed these too, but that now they are in the possession of the Snow Queen, a frost giant vampire and famous gladiker of the Red Sands circuit.
- Breastplate of the Troll-King – said to make its wielder neigh invulnerable if worn in tandem with other pieces of the Armor, that proved to not be the case as Vram was wearing it on the day he was slain in the Red Sands Coliseum. It is now being worn by the fire giant who killed him, the (now semi-retired) gladiator Fírbolgia.
- Claws of the Troll-King – Gregus was as surprised as anyone the day Marv walked into his shop sporting these famous claws, as the last bearer known to possess them was King Fjorn himself. Vram had hinted to Gregus that he had suspicions that he knew who currently possessed them… which as it turns out was Marv’s mother Urga. Gregus indicates where a spike slot is hidden below the wrist of each claw, and supposedly any Vril spike inserted within will add that elemental damage to that claw’s strike.
- The Seven-League Sabatons – while technically not made from the sameadamantine/mithril alloy, nonetheless these pieces are considered a “legitimate” part of the Armor of the Troll-King “set”. Said to make one a “Lord of Winter” able to survive the harshest climates and with a few more purported powers better relegated to the realm of myth, nevertheless even Fjorn never possessed them, as they we lost ages before even.
- Vril Spikes – a total of nine Vril spikes comprise the Armor, but Gregus only knows the location of two. The Violet Spike is in the possession of Sir Heldred Frostheart (who ripped it from Fjorn’s Helm during their battle) and the Indigo Spike, which Gregus admits cost him a fortune, but is currently in his possession, locked away in his vault. It is this very item that Vram had tried to steal, which not only cost him their friendship, but (Gregus admits) ultimately his life.
Gregus wanted to come clean to Marv from the beginning about all of this, but he wasn’t sure at first that he could trust the troll, or that he wasn’t here to somehow avenge his father. However, Gregus feels he may never get another chance and wanted to admit to Marv that he had a hand in his father’s death.
The fire giant thwarted the attempted theft, but didn’t pursue further since afterwards Vram kept away from Gregus’s Forge. But some time later one of Vram’s gladiatorial opponents came into his Forge to be outfitted for their fight, another fire giant named Fírbolgia, along with his gladiker the Snow Queen. It seems Fírbolgia’s match with Vram was to be fought without the aid of magical weapons by either combatant, and without the power of acid or fire in his blade, Fírbolgia feared he would not be able to overcome Vram’s legendary regeneration.
The Snow Queen promised price was no object, so Gregus made for Fírbolgia a sword sculpted from a single piece of obsidian… and while he certainly used magic in its actual creation, by itself is was a simple mundane hunk of stone… albeit one with an almost supernaturally sharp edge. However (as Gregus demonstrates) fire giants have the natural ability to heat up stone to a searing temperature, and so while not nearly hot enough to melt the volcanic rock of its making, the sword’s heat still proved to be more that sufficient to suppress Vram’s innate regenerative powers during their battle. Ultimately the fight went to Fírbolgia, even though the peerless edge had earned over a dozen notches… being turned away time and time again by the Troll-King’s armor before Vram finally succumbed to it.
Marv thanked Gregus and told him he didn’t take the whole thing with his dad personally, and so the fire giant leaves the troll with one final piece of advice. He’s seen his opponent The Sleeper defend his championship twice now, and he is a foe not to be underestimated… without a doubt his most dangerous foe to date, and one which must be overcome with strategy. The Sleeper will lurk beneath the earth until he chooses his moment to strike, and he fights much in the way that Marv does, with bites and claws (only faster… and stronger). Whichever of you waits and lets the other close the distance between you will have the advantage. With that he bids Marv a fond farewell and wishes him luck.
He is definitely going to need it.
Blackspire Session 60 – The Sleeper Awakens
Death & Glory… or a glorious death…?
St. Jezebel decides it is time she become introduced to the larger druid communities of Blackspire, and so with Ariane’s guidance they make their way deep into the uniformly growing rows of trees that make up the Darkwood Grove… their eerily glowing phosphorescent leaves appear like the blue or green claws of a ghost…
However, eventually Jezebel is led to a huge ancient rotting tree, where upon its scraggly branches are perched hundreds of ravens. These birds are eventually joined by what could only be described as a dire raven, that shape changes into the form of a fierce raven-haired human female dressed deer skin leathers like some kind of nomadic tribal huntsman.
This is Murders With Murders, the were-raven guardian of Blackmoot Circle, and after she tests Jezebel with a series of questions to prove she is fluent in the Druidic language, agrees to escort them to the Circle. Additionally any time Jezebel wishes to visit in the future, she need only wait for her at the Raven Tree and in due time she will arrive to lead her. The gargoyle is also warned that any who approach Blackmoot without escort or approval is attacked by her (hundreds of) bird minions without hesitation.
Jezebel arrives at Blackmoot Circle to see it is a ring of obsidian standing stones/obelisks arranged in a pentagon atop a barren hill deep within the Darkwood Grove. As a “new” druid to their circle, Jezebel is tasked with presenting herself before the Hierophant of each of the five Paths of the Green Faith… even though the Path of Life does not currently have a Hierophant, that still leaves four powerful druids to visit.
But finally, the day everyone has been waiting for has arrived… the Grumchucker Arena Championship fight of challenger Marv Kinkiller, the Son of Vram against six-time defending champion… The Sleeper.
The White Hydra Mercenaries wish Marv luck as he retreats to the bowels beneath Grumchucker Arena to prepare for his fight. G’eldatar slips the troll a handful of syringes containing a few different magical “performance enhancing” compounds (“Bull’s Strength”, “Bear’s Endurance”, “Enlarge Monster”, “Thorn Body” and a few other favorites) for Marv to “juice up” with while Maelik Kileam is doing his introductions.
The White Hydra are given the most honorable of the luxury boxes positioned directly across the Arena from the Celebrant’s own. Everyone who’s anyone is there (Daki, Spike, Felix IV, “The Twins” Ix’Peth & Lolthis, Mortimer Stitchwell, Gregus, and Sir Gasparok to name a few) and the seats (and even high walls) are all filled to capacity with spectators here to witness what will surely be an epic struggle.
And one which the odds are currently running 3 to 1 against Marv actually being victorious in…
The White Hydra’s box is the place to be this fight, but Melaria was sad to learn that Gurthax the Unsmiling, while in attendance, has declined her invitation to sit in their box, and pretends to ignore her the entire time… though Boris Bronzehorn was happy to take his spot, and warns Melaria “as a friend” that the Twins are out of patience with her.. and her time to pick a side is up…
As the stands begin to fill up, the White Hydra also happen to notice that someone in Felix IV’s box is wearing the armor of Sir Vance the Lance. Also making a surprise appearance is none other than the medusa gladiator Palsynia who is here (as the Celebrant’s guest) to scope out her new potential competition. She is dressed in a sleek form-fitted suit of red, green, blue, and black scale mail (designed by the green dragon Vhrik’Vris, called “Queensoul”…. darling of the Fashion Mafia) that looks just as good on the ballroom floor as it does in a gladiatorial arena. Each of the individual snakes on her head even have their own covering of scale mail, each draped in one of the four individual colors.
The also take this opportunity to reintroduce Count Zarathusa to society in a big way, and make it blatantly obvious to Sir Gasparok that Melaria is a member of his ka-tet as well. The subtleties of Beholder politics now dictate that since Zarathusa technically outranks Gasparok’s master Baron Dumasthrah and the two of them share a resource, ultimately at some point they will have to challenge each other, ka-tet to ka-tet to see who ultimately will wield control of every aspect of all of their combined businesses and total collective resources. Everyone present in the Arena who understands what this all means is beyond shocked…
The cards are now on the table and the White Hydra are all in.
But the crowd has assembled and the time has come so the White Hydra begin the introduction of their champion. Liff stands up from his seat, steps forth and begins to play a tune on his lute. He plays a few bars, and is suddenly joined by another instrument from out of the crowd. It’s also Liff!
A musician’s duel ensues with each merrily trying to “out-Liff” one another, with the crowd cheering periodically when their “favorite Liff” begins to out play the other. They finish with a big finale and then the crowd (by roar of applause) chooses their winner. Turns out the one they liked better was Maelik Kileam all along, who shocks the crowd when he shifts into his dwarven gladiker character (no dyed bear this time) and begins to introduce Marv…
Marv Kinkiller, the son of Vram: champion of both the Grumchucker Arena and the Red Sands Coliseum. The Scourge of Jade Town, Slayer of Heroes and Villains, King of the Queen of Blades, Hurler of Lampposts… etc…
To the shock of many of the Jade Town residents, Marv emerges then into the pit wearing Bishamonten’s samurai armor with his masterpiece mithril nodachi slung over his back, and enjoying the full effects of his many magical enhancements.
It is at this point when the dwarf Axl Ironbeard emerges from the crowd wielding a massive warhammer and without warning strikes Maelik Kileam with it, knocking him down onto the closed iron grate covering the Arena pit. Then stepping on the doppleganger’s back he raises his hammer high and declares to the crowd:
“As executioner, jury, and judge… I, Axl Ironbeard do avenge this Grudge!!!”
Then in one smooth motion Axl brings the hammer down hard onto MKKM’s skull, splattering the gooey gray pulp of his brains all over the arena floor. The doppleganger’s corpse goes as limp as wet noodles and slides through the iron grate to fall with an unceremonious plop onto the pit floor below.
The roar of approval from the dwarven spectators is downright deafening…
Rather than seek reprisal against Axl Ironbeard, Melaria instead asks the assembled dwarves if the wrongs done their people by one of her number are now assuaged, and that there needs be no more ill will by the dwarves against the White Hydra Mercenary Company. There is a general assent that this is now the case, and so Axl (now a hero to his people) takes his leave of the Arena.
Meanwhile… Maelik Kileam had planned for this all along, and so the black belt they once took off Budo the ogre’s corpse now works its magic and restores the doppleganger to the land of the living with its Breath of Life. Still, he wasn’t expecting Axl to take his role of Grudgekeeper quite so seriously (the pain was real enough). Neither did he expect to fall dead down into the Arena pit… down here… where The Sleeper will soon be…
As if on cue the unnamed gladiker chosen to introduce The Sleeper now steps forth from The Celbrant’s box onto the iron grate and begins to address the masses. He appears to be some horrible hybrid of a man and an angler fish, complete with a dangling phosphorescent pseudo-pod protruding from his forehead… and when he speaks, his voice is dark and squamous.
“FOOLS! Petulant, mewling mortals clamoring for blood and chaos… behold! What rises before you now is but a taste… a taste… of the horrors to come when our Masters return from the blackness outside of space and bring an end to everything you know. When the lost cities shall rise once more and the Great Old Ones bring about one thousand years of cavorting darkness! BEHOLD! For here is the pinnacle of evolution in a Reality driven by the all-corrupting, all-consuming, all-destroying, self-annihilating forces of Entropy!
BEHOLD..! For once again THE SLEEPER AWAKENS!!!
They catch but a glimpse of the creature then as it rises from beneath the rough gravel of the Arena floor, but what they did make out , however indistinctly, could only be described as abomination. Some unspeakable experiment of the Aboleths had spawned this horrific half-breed of what appeared to be a cross of an umber hulk and a grey render, with claws and mandibles dripping with poisonous acid… and whose arms were horrifically tattooed with the glowing eldritch sigil of the Cult Primordiae…
Maelik Kileam decides he’s going to continue to play dead as Marv rolls for Initiative.
I’d like to say what followed was an epic struggle between two fiercely well-matched opponents, but unfortunately it wasn’t anything like that…
Don’t say Marv wasn’t warned…
True to form, at the first opportunity Marv charged in headlong towards The Sleeper only to first be struck the single mightiest blow he’d even had the misfortune to receive. And then what followed shortly after was an absolute pummeling…
While the troll certainly got his licks in before the battle was over, The Sleeper answered each of Marv’s claw and bite attacks with two of his own, and to the horror of all assembled, after delivering flurry after flurry of blows to Marv’s ever weakening frame, and in less than a minute the troll collapsed…
All the while Maelik Kileam continued to play dead…
Even when The Sleeper tore open Marv’s chest to reveal the glistening organs within… even when the abomination devoured the troll’s heart with one horrific bite of its chittering mandibles… even when the monstrosity dragged his friend’s corpse down beneath the blood-strewn gravel of the Arena… the doppleganger continued to play dead.
And thus… Marv dies for real.
Blackspire Session 61 – Now and Satyr
As the White Hydra (officially) mourn the deaths of Marv and Maelik Kileam, an old friend appears to fill out their ranks.
Of course, Marv didn’t really die… instead his consciousness woke up in the body of his clone secreted away at White Hydra Hall. He awoke with a splitting headache (he was down two permanent levels after all) and was of course out all his great stuff, but otherwise Marv (or as the PCs started calling him: “Narv”) was essentially fine.
However, the player running Marv decided the troll was going to go into early retirement (at least for the time being) and decided he wanted to try playing a different character for a while.
Enter Jolly Paul!
So… turns out Mynphauna feels the White Hydra are allies worth keeping, and so she has “lent” one of her “knights”, the satyr Paul Jollyfellow to the mercenary company to assist with missions that are in the two party’s mutual interests.
The new comrades get reacquainted, which in Jolly Paul’s case means lots of wine, women, and song in as many bars as they can crawl to in one evening…
Meanwhile (now free of that annoying dwarf personality) Maelik Kileam learns the construction of Blackskull Hall continues on schedule, and he is invited to inspect the new completed foundation (and gets a bit of education concerning required access points for the Sewerjacks Union).
Sometime after, the young former slave Paisy (who has since really thrown herself into her witchy studies) informs Melaria that the three hags have something for her that she should come to their hut to collect personally. It seems that one of the witches’ regular Magic Fang Biscuit customers (a talking wolf as it turns out) has dropped off a secret message with them meant for Melaria. Within the note is an invitation for the White Hydra Mercenary Company to consider undertaking a very dangerous and potentially very lucrative job opportunity… and one which requires the utmost discretion. If they can ensure they can be neither seen not followed, Melaria and her most trusted lieutenants are given an address to visit to discuss the matter further.
Later in the Warehouse District on Dead Mermaid Lane, across from an ancient fishmonger’s tavern called “Arylyn’s Last Lament” Melaria, Maelik Kileam, and Solina find themselves outside a large, very secure looking, but otherwise nondescript warehouse.
After they knock and reveal who they are, they are let into this structure by a handful of talking magical beasts. The interior reveals itself to be a vast labyrinth of tightly stacked metal crates that can arrange and rearrange themselves into various tunnels, walls, steps… and random read ends. But they are lead to the maze’s center where they meet the boss of this structure and are introduced to the rest of his “crew”.
- Gordian the Unraveller – the scythe-wielding black-furred minotaur beast-master (Ranger/Druid). His own people’s spiritual faith the Path of the Labyrinth is similar enough to the Path of Cycles of the Green Faith, so his association is with that druidic group. Gordian is a bounty hunter/freelance mercenary and (it appears) the sole owner/operator (both financially and magically) of this place. It seems he’s also in the “store things for people and don’t ask questions” business… as many of his building’s storage crates likely contain all matter of interesting contraband… As his own “company” consists only of “dumb beasts” awakened to human intelligence through his magic, he’s managed to avoid actually having to register his structure as a mercenary guild house… and thus he stays beyond the reach of both the Mercenary Consortium and the Sellsword Fraternity.
- Porter – this tamed gorgon does not speak, but is always at Gordian’s side and obeys him faithfully as an animal companion. Porter also pulls the wagon when they need to deliver one of these crates somewhere.
- Fits & Seizure – these two yappy blink dogs only seem to listen to Gordian and no one else. Their blinking ability means they can run straight through the walls of the building’s labyrinth generally unhindered.
- Hubris – this awakened worg serves as Gordian’s chief tracker, as well as his most trusted messenger.
- Keys – this awakened displacer beast serves as the head of security for Gordian’s warehouse. Gordian named him “Keys” because “he’s never where you look for him”.
- Prick – this awakened styrge serves as Gordian’s main scout and spy. His ill temper may have more to do with his name that his sharp proboscis nose.
Staying independent and making every copper count is how Gordian was able to afford his amazing structure in the first place. Melaria’s own desire to stay independent was the first reason he like the White Hydra for this job. The second was their past fearlessness in the face of dragon displeasure… one of the mission’s potential downsides. And the third reason he liked them for it was that they were proven risk takers… and he has a doozy of one.
Gordian confides that he has been approached by a very rich and very powerful Blackspirian (he won’t say who) who has asked him to acquire a prisoner from a very secure location (preferably undetected) and move that subject to a different (and secret) secure location.
Gordian reveals the secure location the prisoner is currently is none other than the black dragon controlled Dungeon itself. And the secure location he suggests the prisoner be moved to is none other than White Hydra Hall.
That prisoner will then need to be held there in secret for an indeterminate amount of time… possibly up to a year. During that time, Gordian’s nameless employer (and anyone else they approve) will be given (scheduled) access to the prisoner… and all the while of course the White Hydra must observe the utmost discretion.
The mercenaries probe the minotaur with questions, and he answers what he can, but will not reveal his employer (better for everyone involved he assures them) or the identity of the prisoner they must secure from the Dungeon until Gordian has their assurances they will take the job. He does reveal that the prisoner is one not to be trifled with, very powerful, very dangerous, and will prove a challenging one to secure.
Once they start talking numbers though, and the zeroes keep piling up, eventually the White Hydra Mercenary Company agrees to take the job. It is only then Gordian the Unraveller finally reveals the identity of the dangerous prisoner they must bust out of the Dungeon and then contain on the grounds of White Hydra Hall… in secret… for maybe a full year…
The white dragon… Hronthgith, called “Frostflake”!
Blackspire Session 62 – The Fickle Fate of Frostflake
Gordian the Unraveller’s job moves forward as White Hydra Hall prepares to host a new guest.
Gordian the Unraveller admits his unnamed employer likely approached him for this task because he’s the perfect person for it. That also means he’s going to be one of the dragons’ prime suspects once the dragon is reported missing from the Dungeon. Gordian’s plan is to serve as bait for this job, and get the dragons to chase their tails so to speak and waste their time investigating him and his warehouse.. meanwhile the mercenaries will have the white dragon safely stashed away in White Hydra Hall.
They pick a date a few days out, and so the plan will be (under the pretense of inquiring after the bail on Melaria’s sister Virpia) the White Hydra will arrive to the Dungeon before Gordian (who will be dropping off a big crate containing two ogre bounties he recently collected) but leave after the minotaur comes and goes from the complex. Gordian has bribed the desk sergeant on duty to lead anyone who asks him about “goodies from the icebox” to the white dragon’s cell… and give them fifteen minutes before he comes and gets them. Melaria reveals they can even use the Black Shroud to transport Frostflake out of there, so they won’t even need some large transportation to smuggle the dragon out with… she’ll fit right in her pocket.
Melaria even hopes to be able to gain Frostflake’s trust and cooperation (though has a backup plan to subdue the dragon if not). It all sounds perfect.
The White Hydra spend the next few days preparing a special holding cell for the white dragon at the send of the subterranean passages beneath White Hydra Hall. Stormtooth has some pretty first hand experience with this particular dragon, and is able to share some useful insights in regards to her formidable abilities. Thanks to St. Jezebel’s earth moving magic they are able to clear away a large cavern space (with both running water and a simple drain) and a magically reinforced and locked door that should (theoretically) prove to be both cold and smash-proof.
Mealik Kileam and Stormtooth take up their bounty hunter roles once again and spend the next few days propping up the bar at the Ninth Bell and checking out the newly posted bounties at the Dungeon that go up at Tenth Bell. They also observe the comings and goings of folks in and out of the Dungeon complex and are able to get a sense of the windows of time when the Dungeon’s employees change shifts, that the mass confusion of the main room when the daily bounties get posted would be a good time to slip though it and out the front unnoticed, and a bunch of other useful intel they are able to find at the bottom of their dozen or so ale mugs.
The plan is as set as they can make it. All that is left is to bide their time and wait to execute…
Blackspire Session 63 – Goodies from the Icebox
Another “single white female” takes up residence at White Hydra Hall.
They planned everything so perfectly, I don’t know what happened…
G’eldatar was back at White Hydra Hall ready to make sure the cell door could be secured at a moment’s notice. Stormtooth was posted in his “usual” spot at the Ninth Bell tavern at Ninth Bell, as the above ground lookout. Maelik Kileam was already in disguise down inside the Dungeon complex sitting around in the main room with the other (sober) bounty hunters waiting for Tenth Bell to come.
Melaria then arrives with Solina and St. Jezebel to the Dungeon, and Melaria strikes up a conversation with the talos bookkeeper behind the main room’s desk while the other two spread out to look for the desk sergeant. When Melaria asks about her sister Virpia, the lizardman consults a few of his ledgers and reveals that her bail had recently be paid and she has been released.
Surprised, Melaria asked who paid the bounty and the desk clerk responds by draining the last of his tar-bean tea from his I Hate the Darks ceramic mug, places it in front of the medusa, and says “*ahem*… I’m afraid that’s privileged information…”
However, it seems Melaria totally misread this cue, since rather than dropping a few coins into his mug, she actually swept the cup off the desk, shattering it on the floor. The angry talos left to gather up a dustbin and broom, eyeing her suspiciously on his return.
Needlessly to say, Melaria does find out who paid her sister’s bail, and that talos doesn’t take his eyes of her the rest of the time she’s there. However, Solina managed to make contact with the desk sergeant on Gordian’s take, and with the right “password” will take them down into the prison levels. However, he warns them the prisoner is still somewhat injured and quite irate. She has blasted her solid prison door with ice every time someone walks by on patrol and has frozen the entrance shut. They’ve even given up on trying to feed her since they can’t even get the door unstuck, and their black dragon bosses assure them white dragons can live off eating just ice alone for years if necessary…
It’s too late to turn back now, so the guard leads the trio back into the bowels of the Dungeon complex, down a handful of floors and twisting and turning through countless corridors until they arrive at the completely iced-over cell door of Frostflake. The guard reminds them they have fifteen minutes, and to stay alert, as there are constantly other guards on patrol who can come by at any minute.
He leaves them alone at this point in front of Frostflake’s completely silent cell. The only sound they do hear is a man’s voice coming from the very secure cell next to the white dragon’s. Mostly what he says is gibberish, until he begins to sing in a chilling voice:
Song of my soul... my voice is dead. Die thou, unsung... as tears, unshed... shall dry, and die... in Lost Carcosa...
Anyway… the clock is ticking… and right around here is where the adventure really started to go south. I’ll do my best to summarize and spare everyone the embarrassment of hashing out the details…
- Their attempts at combining Diplomacy and Bluff with the incredibly paranoid Frostflake produced absolutely abysmal results…
- They only barely find an empty cell in time, and are almost discovered by one of the Dungeon’s random patrols. Frostflake tries to alert the guards that intruders who want to kidnap her are hiding nearby… but fortunately the patrol ignores her
- Finding a way through the iced-over door completely confounds the PCs, and so their solution is to magically bore a hole through the stone wall next to the door.
- Time ticks away but eventually they are able to convince Frostflake they actually mean to free her from captivity altogether, and she finally agrees to cooperate. With Solina’s mist form, and Jezebel taking the form of a snake, they enter the cell, set up the Portable Hole, have Frostflake climb inside, and exit with the device the way they came…
- But as they’re completing this part the sergeant reappears at the end of the hall and so now they’ve completely run out of time. This means Jezebel basically does a really, really poor job of repairing the hole in the cell wall (in like a “didn’t really repair it at all” kind of way) and they get out of there with mere seconds to spare before the next patrol comes down this corridor.
- But they’ve also bought themselves a zero second head start, as they hear the guards outside Frostflake’s cell discover their hole and are already raising the alarm. The desk sergeant leads them to the corridor which leads to the main chamber as quickly as possible… and then he finds somewhere else to be.
- Tenth Bell hasn’t even rung yet, but rather than hang around to get lost in the confusion, Melaria and the others walk right straight through the main chamber and up the ramp leading out of the Dungeon complex. Maelik Kileam can only watch them walk past, but does notice the talos behind the desk staring daggers at Melaria the whole time as she passes.
- The trio even passes Gordian the Unraveller and his crew-manned wagon on their way down the ramp as the mercenaries are on their way up. The minotaur does his best to hide his surprise (and concern) as he walks right past them.
- They make a beeline from the Dungeon home to get Frostflake into her new cell before the air inside the Black Shroud runs out, which they do manage to do, but not without Frostflake learning of their betrayal when she recognized Stormtooth… and then proceeds to test the limits of her new prison cell’s strength over and over and over again… They decide to leave Narv (now an NPC) in charge of permanently guarding the cell door from then on.
Did they accomplish their objective? Technically… yes. Whether or not they’d get away with it going forward though remained to be seen. An incident like this was sure to draw the interest of the Inquisition of Tiamat… as well as seriously motivate the staff of the Dungeon to recapture their prison charge… neither of which is likely to waste much of their time investigating the Gordian decoy…
Regardless, for good or ill that job is done for now, and Melaria has other business. The next assembly of the Gorgonate has come, and she plans to enter a few of her “performance art sculptures”. The pieces will combine St. Jezebel posing statically with statues created at the unveiling from Melaria’s willing petrification victims (finding volunteers for this project has been tough…). Melaria hopes these bold new works of art will make her a serious contender for the currently vacant Muse of the Arts position.
But first, she plans to have a private conversation with Frostflake…
Blackspire Session 64 – Frozen Symphonies
Melaria makes her artistic debut at the Gorgonate. But remember, in Blackspire, criticism can take on many forms…
So it’s fair to say that things didn’t go quite as I’d expected. I’d been planning this session’s adventure around Melaria’s artistic debut, complete with political struggles, cut-throat competitors, and maybe even a little bit of sabotage…
But we never got there…
When the White Hydra awoke the following day, they find the dungeon entrance open, Narv unconscious inside, the dragon’s prison cell empty, and worst of all… Melaria is missing… along with all the sweet gear she was carrying… which included the Black Shroud!
Stormtooth does his best to follow the trail off the grounds, finds a few random drops of Melaria’s blood, and inside a rooftop gutter over Grumchucker’s Square finds her damaged mechanical Guild cockroach. The copper message sleeve had been unrolled, but no message was written on it. His best guess was Frostflake was carrying a struggling Melaria through the skies southward towards the harbor, but the blue dragon looses any chance of picking up the trail again once it vanishes over open water.
Out of options, the rest of the White Hydra Mercenary Company appear on schedule at the Gorgonate to serve as security detail… but unable to account for Melaria’s whereabouts (and without her artistic contributions) it’s fair to say this year’s Symposium of the Arts is a bit of a bust. It’s also fair to say that without Melaria around, the White Hydra Mercenary Company’s contract with Megali to serve as a monthly security detail for the Gorgonate quickly evaporates.
Now… I didn’t tell the PCs the truth at the time, and technically their characters never really learned the full truth, but after a side session with Melaria’s player which involved a very long conversation with Frostflake, the gorgon has secretly opted to abandon the city of Blackspire and join the IceFire Rebellion! She and Frostflake hatch a cunning “escape” and with both the Black Shroud and the Amulet of Non-detection as resources stand a decent chance of making a clean getaway.
All that’s left is to cover their tracks and hope the remaining members of the White Hydra Merceanry Company aren’t left receiving the blame…
Also of note, G’eldetar and Stormtooth have shown particular interest in the golden blood and tear that St. Jezebel sheds. Upon contact with air her blood hardens to a sharp crystalline form, which bears a remarkable similarity to the Necrosteel weapons they’ve previously encountered.
The necromancers show a sample of Jezebel’s golden crystal to the foremost expert on Necrosteel they know, Mortimer Stitchwell when they pay him a visit at his Zombie Museum. Stitchwell confirms the substance is indeed pure Orsidian (or unprocessed Necrosteel) which is incredibly hard to come by. He reveals that most Necrosteel is imported from the city of Nrithia, but that there are local sources as well.
He confides that the jagged crystal is actually the side effect of a rare disease known as Golden Ice, which is highly infectious and typically fatal, but that certain types of people (namely those with Good alignments) can be carriers for the disease without succumbing to it. The Orsidian crystals actually form as very painful growths that protrude from the skin of these carriers, which necromancers like Stitchwell painstakingly harvest. If subjected to incredibly high heat (like that produced in the infamous Infurnace) the crystals can be reshaped into various incredibly sharp objects (as well as eliminating its infectious nature).
However, Mortimer Stitchwell has never seen a sample of such purity before, and becomes a tab bit irritated when they will not reveal their source. The old necromancer asserts he is always in the market, will pay them handsomely for more of the crystal, and promises even greater rewards in they can make their source available to him.
Also sorry about the fate of Marv, Stitchwell begins to wax fondly about his youth and of his Great Uncle Klaudius who was once a famous name in the gladiator circuit. Klaudius constructed very complex necromantic war engines, as beautiful as they were horrific, and each designed to butcher its gladiatorial opponents in new and inventive ways. Stitchwell muses fondly how “Vivisectorix” and “The De-Boner” were both particular fan-favorite creations… but then a few decades ago Ultima-Magi Grakomel decided this sort of involvement in the Bloodsport Industry was giving the College of Necromancy a bad name, and so decreed that no ludus could operate under the school’s hallmark, and that no necromancer could carry a gladiker’s license.
That decree pretty much brought an end to any major involvement of the necromancers in the gladiatorial business. Great Uncle Kladius has since met his Final Death, but his inventions are all still packed away underneath Mortimer Stitchwell’s complex, gathering dust…
If only someone could convince Grakomel to lift the gladiatorial ban… maybe since G’eldatar has the ear of Benjamin Raspbone, and Stormtooth has the ear of Kviscero, called “Darksoul” (two of the most powerful individuals in the entire College) perhaps with both of them in agreement they could get the Ultima-Magi to change his mind…
Blackspire Session 65 – Flying Coops & Flinging Poops…
The White Hydra Mercenaries adjust to a post-Melaria world…
It doesn’t take long for Melaria to be missed…
Without the albino medusa’s influence (or more specifically the benefits of her Leadership feat) most of the newer recruits to the White Hydra Mercenary Company start to drift away. Especially the Lamp Post Boyz, as without their idol Marv to cement their loyalty, the goblins just wander off bit by bit… with the notable exception of the brothers Wuhu and Yahu who maintain their loyalty (so to speak). Also sticking around are Akana (so long as they still pay her on time), Kano Kensai, Sir Bonniface (who continues his round-the-clock guard duty of Lady Kessindra Harkadies), and of course the citadel-bred gargoyles.
It’s also worth noting that of late a number of new gargoyles have recently hatched at White Hydra Hall. Usually only one in four gargoyles are born female, so the household is delighted when the two of the first three young to hatch turned out to be girls. They name the females Pearl and Topaz (after the color of their eyes) and the boy they name Granofel.
The gargoyles report that three more eggs could hatch any day now, and up to seven more eggs could hatch in the next two months.
They eventually decide to put Akana in charge of the security of all the Arboretum holdings of the Garden of Delight, Skelwych Grove, and the massive Sons of the Serpent structure… and though she agrees to on the job, she constantly complains whenever they see her that she is far too understaffed. Dangerously understaffed now that so many of the White Hydra mercenaries have jumped ship.
But, with their job prospects dwindling, and payroll still coming up soon, Maelik Kileam and Stormtooth decide they’re going to finally try their hand at some actual bounty hunting. After considering their options they decide its time to pursue the bounty on the Shinobi Samurai, and since they’ll going to Jade Town they decide to bring Kano Kensai along.
The mercenaries have since come to understand that since the collapse of the Onizuka Gang, the Shinobi Samurai (also known as the Samurai of the Shadows) has been running around buck wild in Jade Town, appearing from the shadows to beat up on whole entire gangs of thugs, only to vanish afterwards just as quickly as he appeared. It seems sometimes he merely leaves the groups he attacks with just scrapes, bruises, and a few broken bones, while at other times he leaves nearly the entire group dead from multiple sword wounds. The Shinobi Samurai also seems to chose no specific targets in particular, and apparently attacks members of any gang he finds roaming the streets of Jade Town (regardless of their affiliation).
After a bit more investigating around Jade Town they are able to learn even more disturbing rumors still. It seems that some of the survivors of the Shinobi Samurai’s attacks have reported that it was not actually the man himself who beat them up, but that he just appeared before them playing an eerie Jadish lullaby on a set of pipes… and then all of a sudden the gang members just started to attack each other, with the Shinobi Samurai joining in the fray once the fighting really got into full swing. Apparently, the more naturally violent the gang members… the more likely it was they all ended up killing each other before it was over…
Later, once some monetary coercion has been spread around the neighborhood, the fledgling bounty hunters are able to hear a rumor that the figure of a man that potentially matches the few vague descriptions of the Shinobi Samurai they have received had been recently spotted moving about on the roof of the Imperial Pagoda…
The problem was… because the power vacuum left by Rorco Horntempled was never adequately filled, the five story Pagoda has since become a total ongoing war zone, as the members of various new Jade Town gangs are each endlessly struggling against each other to control the structure… as well as fighting against the separate forces of both Daki Goldtooth’s criminal outfit as well as the very tough customers that comprise Spike’s Boyz… Each of these groups are currently battling it out tooth and nail with the others, room by room, floor by floor in a desperate bid to be the one to ultimately gain the complete control over the structure.
In the meantime however, which party actually controls which sections of which floors can ebb and change rapidly from day to day… or even hour to hour…
Regardless, Stormtooth decides to post up on the roof of a nearby building across the Pagoda Square and settles in for some very long hours of surveillance. He almost gives up, but luck it seems was with him, as he manages to just barely glimpse the shadow of a figure climbing up the exterior walls of the Imperial Pagoda. The figure reaches the fifth floor roof and the blue dragon is able to make out the silhouette of a suit of traditional samurai armor, with a bird-like ha-ate mask, and with twin swords strapped to his belt… all which match the description of their quarry well enough.
The figure makes his way across the slanted rooftops, reaches what turns out to be a false window of some type, and crawls through into some manner of dark passage behind it. It looks like Stormtooth has found the Shinobi Samurai’s secret lair… the only question is how they will all gain access to it…
The mercenaries note that the front door of the Pagoda is currently in the control of Spike’s Boyz, but that back door belongs to Daki’s crew. The decide not to try their luck with the front, and after a few decent Diplomacy rolls, they are able to convince Daki’s crew to let them inside.
What followed was Stormtooth, Kano Kensai, and Maelik Kileam using a combination of Diplomacy, Intimidation, and just plain, naked violence to get past the various members of the various gangs they encountered on their ascent up the five stories of the Pagoda to reach the top floor…
There (upon reaching Gem-Lung’s former private chambers) they discover that the top floor of the Pagoda is also currently controlled by Daki’s crew. And not only that, but (as the luck of the dice would have it) who should they meet there as well, but their old friend… the goblin Ahoo Goodfinder? They explain their reasons for paying this place a visit, and not only does Ahoo allow them access to the building’s rooftop, but he actually even helps them out further by disarming the trap they discover is protecting the exterior false window…
However, after that the White Hydra are on their own as they brave the bowels of the Shinobi Samurai’s lair, which is actually the Pagoda’s secret attic. However, their quarry has taken great steps to defend his headquarters, and it didn’t take him long to become alerted to their intrusion. What followed was the mercenaries blindly chasing the Shinobi Samurai through a labyrinth of wooden corridors which was heavily laden with deadly traps at literally every turn. The Shinobi Samurai had the added advantage of knowing where all the secret passages between the corridors where, so sometimes he attacked from one direction and they gave chase, only to have him appear and attack from their rear…
Eventually however, they managed to corner the Shinobi Samurai in the center of his lair, and as their fight progresses are actually able to learn the true identity of this bounty they’ve been hunting…
It is none other than Kanzu, the tengu hexblade and former member of the Onizuka Gang. The one who fled the Battle of Jade Town with the biggest strongboxes from the Gambling Den under his arms…
The White Hydra are already quite injured from their trip through Kanzu’s labyrinth of traps, and the tengu is fresh, furious, and has zero desire to be captured by the same group of mercenaries that already ruined his life once. The battle is intense and bloody, and it eventually starts to look like the tengu might actually escape them…
It’s at that point Maelik Kileam decides to throw a vial of alchemist’s fire to cut off Kanzu’s escape…
In the wooden attic…
Of a five story tower constructed of wood, clay, and stone…
Well… the good news was while they never actually got the chance to look for those missing strongboxes Kanzu stole… they did manage to kill the Shinobi Samurai and escape with his body before the fire spread too far and the attic floor was entirely set ablaze. They also gave Ahoo enough warning that he was able to evacuate his own people from the building in time.
The bad news was… ultimately the entire top two and a half floors of the Imperial Pagoda had become completely engulfed in flames by the time the horrified residents of Jade Town were able to mobilize any real effort to fight back the conflagration.
At least the White Hydra mercenaries didn’t sabotage the public well this time…
Blackspire Session 66 – Lighting a Candle in Jade Town
The Shinobi Samurai has been defeated, but the butcher’s bill is high…
So I had made a few tweaks to the interpretation of the rather old skool character class of the Hexblade. While still essentially a “cooler” who has managed to weaponize his bad luck, in the Blackspire world hexblades have the special ability to handle cursed items with impunity. They can also wield cursed items and gain all of the item’s bonuses while suffering none of its defects. What that means for our bounty hunters is that while Kanzu had a lot of really nice equipment, a large portion of it was cursed… and now so are the PCs who first picked up the items…
While Kanzu’s sword and armor are definitely as cursed as they are enchanted, Maelik Kileam seems particularly drawn to an eerie set of eldritch pipes he finds among the tengu’s belongings… and once the instrument is in the doppleganger’s hands it seems just begging to be played…
But now stripped of his equipment the White Hydras decide they will collect on the bounty posted for “The Shinobi Samurai”. The Daki Goldtooth was offering 500 more crowns in reward than Spike (plus a meat dinner!) so, with the Imperial Pagoda still a flaming torch blazing above the rooftops behind them, the bounty hunters make their way to “Daki’s Emporyem” located in southeast Pickett’s Ward. The White Hydra proudly announce themselves when they show the body of Kanzu to Daki’s guards. Suitably impressed, the guards let the PCs inside to wait for Daki to finish his current meeting.
Business at Daki’s round-the-clock indoor marketplace is a bit slow as the fire is drawing crowds in the direction of Jade Town, so the PCs don’t need to wait long to see the goblin gangster… who has just finished sending a large squad of his men out into the streets, and is currently on his building’s roof watching the burning pagoda in the distance…
And next to him is a soot-covered Ahoo Goodfinder who give the mercenaries a very worried glance.
The White Hydra boldly present the tengu’s corpse to Daki Goldtooth, but rather than be overjoyed, the goblin questions the PCs as to the circumstances around the killing this particular quarry. When they ultimately confess that their bounty was captured in a hidden story of the Imperial Pagoda… and that they themselves were responsible for the fire that broke out during the fight, Daki falls furiously silent…
But then they speak up and ask him about their payment…
“Payment?!” fumes Daki “What if I had a building with a roach problem and I hired you to deal with the infestation? And so your solution was to burn the place down, then come ’round to me after asking for payment saying at least we got rid of the bugs?”
Daki Goldtooth then reveals a very important piece of intelligence that the PCs realize they probably should have gathered at some point before they went charging on in there… It turns out the Imperial Pagoda is named so because (a few centuries ago now) it was constructed as a gift to the people of Jade Town from the Jade Dragon Emperor himself. For generations it has been the symbolic center of that community, and many important personages, from storied noblemen to powerful yakuza oyabun, have over the centuries all controlled Jade Town from that particular seat of power.
With it now in flames, Daki’s troubles with seizing control of that neighborhood have just become exponentially more difficult…
So… Daki gives the White Hydra two choices. They can drop to their knees right now and beg his forgiveness… or they can get the fuck out and never come back.
They opt to get the fuck out.
As they turn to leave Daki’s Emporium the goblin levels one more serious threat at the White Hydra mercenaries, promising:
“I’ll see you real soon, guys…”
Angry, but undaunted, the mercenaries are still determined to collect a reward on this bounty, so with the fire of the Pagoda finally starting to dim, they circle wide around Jade Town and pay a visit to Spike’s Kip up in northwest Pickett’s Ward.
The Kip is some manner of old three-story stone fortress that has since been converted into a very crowded tenement building… Spike’s Boyz control every entrance in and out, and occupy all of the floors and most of the rooms. However, as luck would have it, they see the ice troll Fogarth the Mighty and the goblin Gorbo the Magnificent playing dice with a few of their crew outside one of the front doors.
They are much more pleased to see the body of the Shinobi Samurai than Daki was, and a few of the thugs even lean in to spit on the corpse. They’re taken in to see Spike, who’s surrounded by a whole slew of his Boyz carousing in the building’s common room.
Spike it seems isn’t overtly concerned about the burning of the Pagoda, and was only fighting for it because he knew Daki wanted it so badly (for some reason). He believes his Boyz had already taken everything (and everyone) of value out of that place already, and he is actually kind of relieved he doesn’t have to keep throwing “pointless” resources at it.
And so yes, he gladly pays them the 5000 crown bounty he’d promised in full and even offers for them to hang out and drink with them for a while. They can even tell everyone the story of their battle against the hated Shinobi Samurai…
Alright “one” drink…
Quite a few of those single drinks later, Maelik Kileam, Stormtooth, and Kano Kensai stumble home to White Hydra Hall… tired, beaten, and drunk, but victorious…
Only to see a bunch of red dragons hanging around on their lawn… again! And with them are quite a few elite soldiers from the Church of Tiamat… many of whom are systematically searching the grounds for something.
Inside they find the rest of the PCs, along with Count Zarathusa, who is attempting to maintain a very calm discussion with a talos cleric of the Dragon Queen. The beholder, upon seeing the bounty hunters’ return quickly (and emphatically) introduces them to their new guest.
It is none other than the Grand Inquisitor of the Church of Tiamat herself… Makisis of Many!
It seems she has some questions…
Blackspire Session 67 – A Cut & Dry Alibi
Makisis of Many has many questions…
So… this was a pretty tense session to say the least…
Even though she gave away no clues as to the purpose of her visit beyond simply having a “friendly chat”… Makisis of Many still insisted on interviewing each of the White Hydra mercenaries separately.
At no point did she bring up bring up white dragons or the Dungeon, and each and every PC (to their credit) never brought them up either. Instead Makisis seemed very fixated on Melaria’s current whereabouts and what they know about the cultists of Set.
The White Hydra had plausible deniability… they really didn’t know where Melaria was… and those who expressed disdain for the Settites were instead prompted to share their opinions concerning a certain “sister” of the inquisitor’s… Methadris of Many.
It is Axxitanis, called “Stormtooth”‘s opinion of Methadris that most interests the inquisitor. The blue dragon plays the role of a good Tiamatian and shares her dislike of that reptilian cult… and especially of Methadris being a follower of its faith.
Makisis then informs Stormtooth the White Hydra a being investigated for kidnapping one of the Church’s prisoners. Someone he’d done battle with quite recently. All the evidence the Inquisition have collected at the point of the capture points to Melaria of the White Hydra, but in the inquisitor’s opinion it’s a bit too obviously suspicion, as are the personal ties to Stormtooth… She believes both the prisoner and Melaria were captured, coerced, or otherwise imitated by the peerless sorcery of their (mutual) enemy Methadriss of Many along… with her Settite allies… She’s sorry to say she believes their boss Melaria has likely since been killed and disposed of somewhere by the cultists of Set.
Makisis of Many then produces a single white dragon scale wrapped in a dirty note… upon it are written some random Draconic characters, but when sounded out phonetically are similar to:
“Knock, knock?… Dragonknocker’s Night!” observes Stormtooth and Makisis of Many agrees that it must be some sort of Setite message of revenge (and even though Stormtooth secretly suspects Melaria is the one who actually sent it, he says nothing). Makisis then has a very important proposition for Stormtooth…
If the blue dragon would be willing to stand before the entire congregation of the Church of Tiamat at the next service and publicly accuse Methadris of Many (and the Settite Cultists working with her) of having committing certain crimes, then the White Hydra won’t need to worry about the scrutiny of the Tiamatian Inquisition any longer…
Stormtooth agrees… and begins working on his speech.
Later, once the Tiamatians have left, G’eldatar sets about trying to remove some of the cursed items the bounty hunters took off of Kanzu’s body. The dark elf is largely successful, but for some inexplicable reason Maelik Kileam seems unwilling to let go of the instrument the G’eldatar (rightly) identifies as a set of Riot Pipes.
The doppleganger instead decided he was going to take them for a little test run and play them somewhere he’d get the maximum results. He selects his target, and under the cover of an Invisibility spell he climbed the walkway down into the Chasm, sneaked past the guards of the Pariah’s Market, found a position near the most bustling center of the outcast’s village, and began to play…
Keep in mind, Maelik Kileam hadn’t owned the Riot Pipes for three days yet, he hadn’t failed some kind of saving throw or been under any sort of magical compunction at all. The doppleganger’s player just decided to go play the Riot Pipes in a public space all on his own…
Yep. It was a fucking massacre.
Well, the pipes functioned exactly as he’d expected, I guess. Once most people in the Market heard his disembodied piping they suddenly turned around and began to murder one another in the most brutally savage manner imaginable. It turns out that children in fact were the ones who were the most likely to succumb to this murderous enchantment, and as he sneaks away invisibly, Maelik Kileam sees amidst the absolute carnage he’d just caused all about him, there were scores of little ones running about stabbing bloody knives into random cradles or tossing them down into the lava of the fiery Chasm below.
Exactly as he’d expected…
Blackspire Session 68 – Wacking Daki… or… I Guess We Like Spike
The White Hydra Mercenaries once again find themselves amidst the power struggle of rival gangs in Pickett’s Ward.
Maelik Kileam made his way home to White Hydra Hall, and nobody was the wiser as to where he’d just been. Thanks to the bounty collected on Kanzu they are able to make payroll this week for the mercenaries who are still left, and they decide to all lay low for a few days.
They get about a day and a half…
After that time White Hydra Hall is paid a visit by the assassin Mistress Bloodshade, who is backed up by the harpy Ennith, the Lolthian Kaiden J’Zemmel, and a handful of other folks who look very much like ninjas.
It seems that the heads of the Kogu Shinobi are demanding to see the White Hydra Mercenary Company at once, and they have ordered Bloodshade to return to the Confessional with them… or not at all…
When they ask what the Kogu Shinobi want with them, Mistress Bloodshade produces a copy of wanted poster she recently collected. It seems copies just like it have been plastered all over the Jade Town neighborhood. Which those who can read Jian-tzu can make out reads:
Mistress Bloodshade lets them know that in no uncertain terms… they’re fucking coming with her right fucking now.
The White Hydra are led to the Confessional wing of the grand citadel that houses the Three Guilds of Fleshcraft. There they are ushered into the last booth on the end, and once sealed tightly inside, the wall opposite opens and they are led into an antechamber where they once again encounter the tengu ninja Master Blackfeather and the oni wu-jen Omano-o. They notice Blackfeather is bearing the Corrocite naginata and that Omano-o has the Ignite greatsword over one shoulder.
The masters of the Kogu Shinobi express they have reached the end of their patience with the White Hydra Mercenary Company disrupting their business. Rorco Horntempled was a huge cash cow for them, paying 5000 crowns a month to be on the ninja order’s “No Kill” list, which additionally meant the Kogu Shinobi would protect him from other assassination contracts as well.
When the White Hydras killed Rorco, the Kogu Shinobi understood it was a personal vendetta between the oni and some new budding assassins, and so they didn’t intercede. But Gem-Lung was the Kogu Shinobi’s first choice to succeed Rorco as the yakuza boss of Jade Town (and resume the 5000 crown/month payments) so when the White Hydra convinced the sapphire dragon to return to the Shadow Dragon Empire, that hope became dashed.
Now chaos rules the streets of Jade Town, and the Kogu Shinobi would have even been satisfied with the Shinobi Samurai taking over, so long as some degree of stability returned to the neighborhood… of course the White Hydra saw to him as well.
It appears the White Hydra had forgotten the promise they made to the Kogu Shinobi the last time they were called to Confession… the promise to surrended the Shirromune blades and then stay the hell out of Jade Town.
And of course, breaking that promise doesn’t even begin to compare… their worst offense yet is the burning of the Imperial Pagoda… which it took the Kogu Shinobi all of an afternoon to put together they were the ones responsible. While Blackfeather and Omano-o express no real love for the Jade Dragon Emperor, they still understood the significance and importance of that structure to the functioning of the neighborhood.
The Kogu Shinobi promise that normally they would just kill them all right now on the spot and be done with it… but instead they’ve decided to see if for one last time they can somehow prove their worth. Since the White Hydras can’t seem to keep their noses out of Jade Town, the Kogu Shinobi are now making the mercenaries personally responsible for returning peace to the region.
In the meantime, it is they who will be paying the ninja order the 5000 crown a month stipend to forestall the assassination they just promised. Fail to pay in full on the first of each month, or fail irrevocable to bring peace to the Jade Town region, and they can be sure that one night very soon the Kogu Shinobi will be coming for them to finish that assassination job.
Once peace has been restored, the Kogu Shinobi also fully expect the White Hydra to finance the rebuilding of the Imperial Pagoda to its former glory. Then, and only then, will the Kogu Shinobi listen to the White Hydra’s suggestion for who will be their successors and run Jade Town (assuming the 5K stipend from them). The Kogu Shinobi suggest that to accomplish these tasks, their resident actor Maelik Kileam assume the role of none other than the Shinobi Samurai, while Stormtooth assume the role of the sapphire dragon Gem-Lung, returned to save the town.
While assuming the “mysterious” tengu’s role should be fairly simple for the doppleganger, assuming the appearance of a sapphire dragon should prove to be much harder for Stormtooth… but Omano-o offers a solution.
The oni magician offers to inscribe a magical tattoo on the dragon’s back (specifically the section of his wings running parallel to his spine) known in certain occult Jadish circles as the Seal of the Rainbow Dragon. The powers of which will allow for Stormtooth to change his dragon type once every 20 hours. He can chose to become any of the chromatic, metallic… and yes even any of the gem dragons native to to the Shadow Dragon Empire… including of course the sapphire variety.
The application of the Seal of the Rainbow Dragon is less of a tattooing than it is a painting, as Omano-o uses various acidic colored pigment to apply the necessary marks. This tattoo has consumed Stormtooth’s shoulder magic item slot, but it’s not like he was wearing capes much anyway…
Now there’s just the small issue of the fact that Gem-Lung is much older (and thus much larger) than Stormtooth is… it’s a detail that the citizens of Jade Town who were familiar with the original might possibly notice.
Then it’s Maelik Kileam’s turn. If the doppleganger will also sacrifice one of his magic item slots, Omano-o will apply to him the Mark of the Hexblade, the powers of which will allow him to handle a single cursed item at a time without penalty, and thus display some of Kanzu’s powers. Maelik Kileam agrees and received the Mark of the Hexblade on his left foot.
Later, St Jezebel hears some disturbing news from Lavaheart. It seems that during the recent dragon holiday the Dragonhunt, an adult red dragon was killed chasing a young white dragon through the Dragongate. The white managed to wriggle through the huge iron portcullis as it was still being raised, and the pursuing red dragon got his head stuck in the grate, and strangled to death as his neck was crushed against the ceiling.
That’s not the bad news though… the bad news is the dragons had blamed the gargoyles manning the Dragon Gate for the accident, claiming they hadn’t raised the gate in time. The gargoyles claim the waited for the signal they were given (as instructed) but that seemed to have mattered little when clearly someone needed to bear the blame. The red dragons chose half a dozen gargoyles of the Dragon Gate and executed them all by fire. Their incinerated corpses now swing before the Dragon Gate as a warning to others.
Since the Dragon Gate is the very place the gargoyles gather for their monthly meeting, St. Jezebel decides she’s going to skip this meeting… And so, despite Laveaheart’s protests he ends up attending the gathering alone.
Blackspire Session 69 – An Ill-Fitting Mask
Maelik Kileam and Stormtooth begin their new roles masquerading as the Shinobi Samurai and Gem-Lung. Given its recent history with these mercenaries… can Jade Town survive the White Hydra’s attempts to save it?
The following day, Solina is alerted to the fact there seems to be a line forming in the street outside the hags’ mechanical-legged hut, but their shutters are not open for business. She investigates and finds the hut completely locked up tight, and that their cook fire has burnt down to ashes and a foul smelling mushroom paste has congealed in the bottom of their cauldron. This is peculiar, as bells or tolls, highs or lows, the witches always seem to have something brewing.
Solina receives no responses to her shouts and knocks on the door, and so eventually resolves herself to force the door. She picks the lock while at the same time disarming the little trap installed within against just such interloping. When the door opens the vampire is faced with a gristly sight. Sitting in a circle is the night hag Stryx, the annis hag Urgness, the green hag Jecate, and the aspiring teenage witch Paisy… all slumped over dead… their eyes rolled horribly back in their head… a foul green foam cooling gently on their lips.
The problem was… Solina had never actually been invited into the witch’s hut before, so now she was forced to just stand there helpless in the doorway, unable to to anything but scream in horror and frustration…
Eventual, the rest of the White Hydra mercenaries arrived on the scene and were able to remove the bodies. G’eldatar is eventually able to deduce that someone had poisoned the witch’s mushroom paste just moments before they ate it and retired for an evening’s group meditation. The alchemist is also able to determine the poison used is probably one of the most virulent and lethal he’s ever encountered.
No one can say for sure who did the actual poisoning, but they’re all pretty sure that Maelik Kileam is responsible for it. It’s around this time the doppleganger comes clean about the incident in the Pariah’s Market with the Riot Pipes. The mercenaries then posit that since the hags were persona non grata that Anjeh the drider wanted out of the Market (hence why they’re here in the first place) if somehow the Pariah’s had magically tracked the source of the Riot Pipes back to White Hydra Hall, it’s probable that Anjeh assumed the hags were taking revenge of some kind, and sent an assassin here to deal with them. After all, why would the drider suspect a member of the mercenary company of an unprovoked attack… I mean after all, Anjeh’s glowing arcane mark signifying his alliance with White Hydra Hall is still glowing proudly on the side of the mansion there…
Turns out Anjeh’s mark of protection isn’t there anymore…
Hoping that’s at least the end of it, the mercenaries try to return to their normal routine, and for the next few days at least get around to attempting exactly that…
Solina returns to do some more investigating into the Scythe Night Killers (whose next crime should be approaching quite soon), Maelik Kileam and Jolly Paul start putting some effort into practicing their music while St. Jezebel decides she will seek out the Hierophants of the different druid orders. G’eldatar and Stormtooth have studies at the College of Necromancy they’ve been neglecting, and G’eldatar in particular has the task to refine the Necroine drug for Caliph Rahzeen to worry about.
The dark elf’s worries get greater when all his initial attempts to alter the effects or dosage strength of the drug end in catastrophic failure (and death for most of his poor test subjects). In fact G’eldatar ends us expending nearly his entire supply of Necroine on his experiments without a single successful dose produced. Now he will need to decide whether he will slink back to the Caliph defeated and beg for more samples to work with… of whether he’ll try another method to score a few hits of Grey Dream on the street somewhere…
Later at the College, G’eldatar and Stormtooth are approached by none other than The Weeper himself… who mysteriously offers his condolences on their recent troubles. However, he informs the two of them that the time has come for him to call in two of those favors they can’t refuse. The first thing he wants they happily grant, The Weeper wants to be given ownership of the witch’s mechanical hut. For the second request however, what he wants is for them to turn over the young Mongelman girl Beedle to his care. She will serve as his ward and he will see to her education. He promises them that he’s one of the few members of the College who will ever be able to see past her Mongelman heritage.
While it’s understandable that the PCs were hesitant to turn the innocent young Beedle over to an undead beholder death tyrant cancer mage until such time as she reaches adulthood… and Beedle certainly protested her fair share before it was all over… at the end of the day they really didn’t put up much of a fight, and turned the girl over the The Weeper’s “guardianship”.
But, they were taking the Kogu Shinobi’s threat seriously at least. They began (over the next few sessions really) gathering intelligence on the peoples and places of Jade Town, and really starting to map the area for the first time.
Under the guise of the ninja Yuriko, Maelik Kileam encountered a new gang called the Order of the Shadow Fist for the first time. Comprised mostly of martial arts thugs, their lower members can each be identified by the gray glove they wear on their right hand, while their upper members have their right hand tattooed in a black “henna-like” pattern, or even have their entire hand tattooed a solid gray…
“Yuriko”‘s brazen attempt to gain membership into this new gang ended quite poorly however, as the doppleganger ended up needing the full compliment of his martial skills to escape the attempted rape that almost ensued from that little encounter.
It is worth pointing out at this point, for all their attention directed towards Jade Town and elsewhere, not a single scrap of intelligence was gathered by any of the PCs concerning either Daki Goldtooth or his outfit.
Not a single question by any of the PCs in all that time about anything concerning that cunning little goblin…
It has now been a week… a full ten days of game time since Daki leveled his little threat at the White Hydra Mercenary Company.
In essence they have given Daki Goldtooth a full ten days to plot their downfall…
Blackspire Session 70 – Storming the Emporium
Time to pay the piper… so to speak…
I will admit… this is probably the first time I gave the name of the upcoming adventure a deceptive title. I wanted the PCs to think that it was finally time to get off their duffs and deal with Daki Goldtooth by launching some sort of assault on the goblin gangster’s “Emporyem”.
A cruel bluff perhaps… but all’s fair in love and war-gaming… I mean, it’s not like they’d even taken the first steps towards “Storming the Emporium” had they?
To start with, everything seemed normal on Takisnight, the 25th day of Primordius. Stormtooth was attending the weekly service of the Church of Tiamat… Since this is the one where Stormtooth would stand before the entire congregation and accuse the fearsome sorceress Methadris of Many of sedition, heresy, and other unsavory crimes, St. Jezebel decides she will tag along and sits in the lowly pews with the other servants of the Caeraco clan… near, but not quite next to Stormtooth’s place of higher honor.
All in all, though he had good reason to be nervous, Stormtooth’s speech was received quite well…
There is an immediate response among the Tiamatians to declare Methadris an enemy of the Church, and to issue a 10,000 crown bounty for her capture… an amount that immediately gets added to by many a rich dragon until it is a sum so large that any fool in the world might well attempt to collect on it.
But then Makisis of Many interjects and suggests Stormtooth’s first hand altercation with Hrontgith, called “Frostflake” means he can also ascertain whether or not the white dragon committed an act of war against the city of Blackspire.
Stormtooth (on the spot) confirms that it was.
Needing to hear nothing else, the congregation erupts in cries to declare open warfare on the IceFire Rebels, as well as on the white dragons of the Glacier Lands. High Pristess Vhrik’Nalsis, called “Queenspeaker” (seemingly expecting this) promised to put it to a vote before the next Blackspirian Senate gathering… and quickly moves the service’s focus back to spiritual matters…
But Stormtooth is no longer needed at this point and he returns to his seat to find an incredibly excited St. Jezebel trying to get his attention. It seems that during his speech, a raven Animal Messenger landed near her with a message attached, which simply read:
The Arboretums are under attack! Come at once with ALL your strength! -Ariane
Now, it’s worth noting that an identical message arrived to Jolly Paul at White Hydra at around this same time, if not a little before. But White Hydra Hall is in the Plebian District on the southwest part of the city, and the Arboretum District is well over on the eastern side side of town. Even at a full run it’s going to take most of the PCs at least 15 minutes to cover the distance… but they don’t hesitate and every single available mercenary starts to run (or float in Zarathusa’s case…).
Stormtooth is currently even farther away, as the Church of Tiamat is over on the western side of town in the Dragon District, but with his incredibly flying speed he might well reach the Arboretums first…
If he decides to actually leave in the middle of service, that is…
Stormtooth’s Twice-Father seemed pleased with how his son acquitted himself today, and might almost be starting to think there might be some hope for him in Tiamat’s eyes yet. Probably the last thing Stormtooth is going to want to do is try to get out of his promise to never miss a single service of the Temple of Tiamat.
That doesn’t stop Stormtooth from begging his mother for permission to leave service early. A plea she roundly refuses…
And so a shocked St. Jezebel leaves the Temple of Tiamat for the Arboretum District as fast as her little wings could carry her…
And Stormtooth (like a dutiful Tiamatian) sits out the adventure…
This means that by the time the remaining PCs arrive to the Arboretums, they see a few dozen figures blasting fiery holes into the rooftop of the Sons of the Serpent structure with some ghastly orange smoke billowing out of the openings… and they can well see the Garden of Delight is already completely engulfed in flames with Skelwych Grove also coming under attack…
They then find the figure of Akana lying in the street with over a dozen crossbow bolts sprouting from her body… the other White Hydra guards dead around her. She is poisoned to within an inch of her life, yet somehow she is still clinging to life, and so G’eldatar is able to stabilize her before they ascend the dome of the structure and engage the attackers above.
They can see their attackers are comprised primarily of goblins who seem to be either systematically pulling out large vials of acid to smash of the Arboretum rooftop and eat away at the holes already formed, or pulling out vials of alchemist fire to hurl through the holes into the artificial jungle below.
However… they can see the goblins are being led by a very strange fellow indeed. He is an eight foot tall blue gorilla with four arms (two of which are mechanical) and he also sports an number of other half-golem modifications. He also sports the silver medallion of a member of the College of Necromancy.
It is the gorillian, Dr. Primæus.
He is blasting away with bombs launched from his mechanical arms, and G’eldatar is able to identify the orange smoke bombs he is firing down into the arboretum is some kind of defoliant agent designed to kill plant life.
While the White Hydra mercenaries make short work of the goblins one-on-one, without the aid of Stormtooth’s lightning breath their numbers are simply too overwhelming. While they do manage to kill or drive of most of them (including Dr. Primæus who beats a hasty retreat) they are unable to save the plant life in either the Sons of the Serpent structure or the Garden of Delight from complete annihilation.
Fortunately they were able to keep Skelwych Grove from going up in flames, and it seems that Ariane and others from Mynphauna’s Reserve were able to save the treant Sourlips and the others who were inside the Garden of Delight from a fiery fate. However, the same cannot be said for the many priceless citrus trees within the Garden, to say nothing of the innumerable incredibly rare (and now possibly extinct) flora that flourished inside the Sons of the Serpent structure. The White Hydra no longer able to guarantee their safety, fortunately Mynphauna agrees to take in both the dryads as well as Brooke the naiad from Skeywych Grove and give them new homes in the Reserve.
Eventually, once the few remaining (agonizing) hours left of services at the Temple of Tiamat had expired, Stormtooth finally rejoined the White Hydra mercenaries to help assess the damages to the Arboretums. Perhaps the worst part of all was that the rest of Temple service was really, really boring…
Now… if only that really were the worst of it…
When the mercenaries eventually make their way with the still immobile Akana home to White Hydra Hall, they are shocked to discover that their home and their property now apparently have new owners. Dozens upon dozens of folks from the Pariah’s Market are walking about the grounds of the mansion and many are in the process of setting up tables, booths, and vendor stalls for business on the front lawn. Beyond them they can see various people coming out of the mansion with all matter of valuables in tow… and much of the furniture is finding its way into becoming the next stalls in the newest version of the Pariah’s Market. It even looks like their sphinx neighbor Professor Hadit and his son have set up some manner of bookseller table near the fence separating the properties…
There are of course new guards posted at what used to be their gate, and naturally the mercenaries’ return has been expected… and so they are greeted with a bristling assortment of crossbows aimed in their direction.
As is to be expected, the White Hydra mercenaries demand to know the meaning of all this, and so they are allowed to come onto the property part of the way, though the guards never lower their crossbows.
They then demand to see their gargoyles, who all arrive to the front of the house promptly. But when confronted about why they did not depend the mansion from invaders, Dragonglass simply shoots Maelik Kileam a fierce look and asks “Is it true?”. It is then that they see Anjeh the Drider emerge from the front door of the mansion accompanied by Maar’Khuur the beholder mystic…
“It’s true… it’s him” says Maar’Khuur referring to Maelik Kileam. “He’s the one who played the cursed instrument in the Market”.
Everyone is on edge then… ready for violence to erupt at any moment. Warriors on both sides are poised for battle. It is then that Daki Goldtooth also emerges from the mansion surrounded by his own entourage… sipping a bottle of Virpia’s wine and grinning ear to ear with that gold-toothed smile of his.
“Told ya I’d be seeing you real soon.” he smirks.
It’s fair to say the campaign almost came to an end right here. Maelik Kileam was right on the verge of starting a fight, but even fresh and buffed on a good day, they’d have trouble surviving a fight with the combined might of the Pariah’s Market and Daki’s Goldtooth’s heaviest hitters… but they’d just emerged from an epic battle against Dr. Primæus and the few dozen goblins (that now they’re pretty certain were all hired by Daki) and they’re already pretty injured… and so ultimately he thinks better of it and stands down.
That doesn’t stop Anjeh from relating the horrors he saw the people of the Pariah’s Market visit upon one another, or the horrible great lengths it took him and his men to finally subdue the last of those effected by the enchantment. How many dozens upon dozens of pointless lives lost… and for what? For what?
Maelik Kileam has nothing to say that will satify their desire for vengence.
It is only their insistance that the doppleganger must have been operating under the compulsion of the cursed item, but that he has since found a way to remedy its control over him, that it is Daki who actually convinces Anjeh to let them leave the property alive.
“If you kill them, they can’t learn their lesson, can they?” posits Daki.
The answer to that particular question remains to be seen, but nevertheless the sorry, defeated, and now homeless mercenaries must find somewhere else to go. Preferably somewhere where they can get Akana help… the half-bugbear is still clinging to life, but the strength-sapping poison she suffers from has still rendered her immobile.
They weigh their options and decide to pay Mortimer Stitchwell a visit and see if he’ll let them crash at the Zombie Museum for a few days.
Blackspire Session 71 – Home Is Where Your Stuff Is…
The remaining members of the White Hydra Mercenary Company adjust to their new lives in a post crossing-Daki world…
Mortimer Stitchwell was fine with putting them up for a day or two (longer if they spill the beans about their Orsidian source… which they don’t) and also oversees Akana’s poison recovery. Under hic care she shows immediate improvement, and he promises she’ll be back on her feet in less than a week.
Count Zarathusa also lets the White Hydra know that for the foreseeable future he’ll be hiding out in the Automatica Anitomicae from Baron Dumasthrah, Daki Goldtooth, Anjeh the Drider, the Kogu Shinobi… and anyone else they’ve managed to piss off of late. Stitchwell seems quite happy to have his old business partner stay with him indefinitely… turns out he needs a new tour guide for the Zombie Museum…
In the meantime the White Hydra decide to take an assessment of the damages they recently suffered. If only the loss of their home was the last of it…
However, they soon discover that it seems Daki was also aware of the Von Hriger tower they owned in Mage Town, for when they investigate the see that while the structure still stands, the interior floors have all been completely gutted by fire. Not only did this mean that G’eldatar’s zombie linnorm, his zombie gorgon, and the pair of dwarven zombie servants were all destroyed, but the small yet priceless library of ancient one-of-a-kind fairy tale books that the Harkadies brothers had removed from the College of Necromancy’s Library were tragically also all consumed in the flames…
Then… with his heart in his throat, Maelik Kileam pays a visit to the Street of Dark Symphonies to learn the fate of the Blackskull Hall building project… and finds it untouched. It seems Foreman Blackjewel was a dwarf of his word, and has kept the doppleganger’s identity clear of the project (or at least quiet enough Daki didn’t learn of it).
So there’s that at least…
Regardless, the Kogu Shinobi are not likely to give them any breaks over their recent hardships, so in time the White Hydra return to Jade Town to continue gathering what new information they can about the region.
In the process of doing so however, they begin to notice some new and very prominent graffiti painted on the sides of various buildings in the Jade Town neighborhood.
While the artwork certainly varied from artist to artist (and most were probably goblins), each of these various graffiti murals tended to convey the same basic information, namely that a doppleganger named Maelik Kileam and a blue dragon named Stormtooth (both from a group called the White Hydra) had willfully set fire to the Imperial Pagoda… and in many of these renderings the windows of the Pagoda have screaming goblins trapped inside the building.
And so at last Daki Goldtooth’s revenge is finally complete.
Seems like the ability the both of them have to change their form is about to become a lot more handy.
Additionally, over the past few days St. Jezebel has been making special trips to visit each of the Hierophants of the various druid Paths and decide which of the aspects of the Green Faith is right for her to declare at her upcoming initiation. Since Mynphauna had told Jezebel that for the last three decades the seat of the Hierophant for the Path of Life had been vacant, she only needs to visit four Hierophants.
- Jaazhanel D’Vosh the grandson of Jaazhan (and great-granduncle to G’eldatar), and a key component of that Lolthian family’s agribusiness is the Hierophant of the Path of Cycles (Lawful Neutral). A Vermin Lord, he uses his affinity with insects to protect the large swaths of various crops the D’Vosh family produces from invasive pests, and so the gargoyle finds him sitting in an office at one of the immense D’Vosh-owned arboretums (this one dedicated to growing wheat, which is planted in rows across a series of tiered pyramids beneath the magically lit dome). And aside from displaying the yin-yang symbol of the Path of Cycles on a brooch, the business-minded Lolthian dresses absolutely almost nothing like a traditional druid… and seems to have little patience for druid related issues that are not concerned with the continual growth of the city’s agribusiness. Jaazhanel does confide there are other druids who follow the Path of Cycles who do not share his exact philosophies… but (for example) the Sakura Druids of Jade Town tend to keep to their own, and the Labyrinth-based faith of Minosovo seems to be for minotaurs only.
- “Lonehenge” the ancient, ancient Galeb Duhr (a sentient boulder-man) who whiles away his days in deep meditation within the Blackmoot circle (comprised of stacked 5′ x 10′ blocks of obsidian) standing stones is the Hierophant of the Path of Balance (True Neutral). Dreadfully morose, Lonehenge believes he is the last of his race, or at least most certainly the last of the Galeb Duhr that once comprised his original circle of standing stones. He has come to this place, he says, to have a perfect view of the end of the world. He does seem to show some affinity for a fellow creature of stone however, so if she decides to walk the Path of Balance, he promises the gargoyle may come and sit beside him, and they can tell each other stories until the world finally comes to an end.
- Howls at Shadows the werewolf shaman is the Hierophant of the Path of the Wild (Chaotic Neutral). It is Murders With Murders who actually leads Jezebel to the far eastern edge of the Darkwood Grove where she discovers a series of hills and caves wherein dwell a loose-knit tribe of the most bestial members of this druidic path. She is led to Howls at Shadows’s cave where she can see there is an eerie blue mist billowing forth out of. The shaman seems to live in a continual state of heightened consciousness… and the gargoyle is strongly advised not to inhale any of the psychedelic vapor. In fact, her visit need not last longer than she can hold a single breath… the wise shaman can assess anyone with a single glance. St. Jezebel does a bit better than that, however… she holds her breath and creeps to the back of the cave, where she finds the wolf-hybrid shaman in his tribal regalia with his head under a cloth inhaling a strange blue vapor from a boiling bowl. He offers the bowl to her to partake when she presents herself before him, and so instead she clutches the earth with her claws and joins the Meld… becoming an inert statue. She holds this form for many a long minute until she is sure she has surpassed any normal holding of breath, and then returns to her mobile form. Howls With Shadows gives her a simple assertive nod of approval and she takes her leave.
- The Grovemaster, a figure that few outside the druid community has ever even seen is the Hierophant of the Path of Survival (Neutral Evil). St. Jezebel is directed to follow the coastline along the southern edge of the Darkwood Grove, and there she finds some manner of huge industrialized saw mill, which is in the process of turning downed timber into darkwood boards. Directed to wait for the Grovemaster in a nearby circle of trees and boulders, she waits, and waits, until finally she starts showing signs of boredom. “So impatient to meet your death?” asks a voice from directly behind her, and startled she turns to see she had been leaning against a treant this whole time. The tall tree-man is wielding some manner of mechanical scythe, the blade of which is wrapped in an adamantine chain, each link sporting a cutting blade. She then hears the roar of a mechanical engine as the links of chain spring to life and begin a swirling around in an arc of death. Then suddenly, the Grovemaster swings his chainsaw scythe blade right for St. Jezebel’s neck! She doesn’t flinch. Chuckling the treant shuts off his device and applauds her fearlessness. Now stepping forth to get a better look at her, she can see the Grovemaster displays the appearance of a darkwood tree, complete with phosphorescent blue leaves and with nightmarish glowing eyes to match… However, his twisted bark and horn-like branches makes the Grovemaster lineage seems almost fiendish in comparison to the uniform darkwood trees surrounding them… and the glee he expresses concerning his “harvesting operation” of the Darkwood Grove is somewhat unsettling. They quickly find little else in common however, and so the gargoyle decides this one cursory visit is enough to make up her mind about the Path of Survival.
Blackspire Session 72 – Enticed to Heist the Feisty Zeitgeist
Jade Town continues to erupt in conflict… who can restore peace to the region? The assassins of the Kogu Shinobi ninja order are not to be ignored for long…
Still determined to gather intelligence about the goings on of Jade Town, but Stormtooth not just ready to “come out” as “Gem-Lung”, Maelik Kileam tries another tactic. The doppleganger creates a new identity, a sort of shugi yoshi (a wandering swordsman) who walks the streets looking for trouble… and Jolly Paul is following from the shadows about a half block back to back him up should any arise…
Of course it does…
In due time the two vigilantes run across some elderly shop-keepers in a grocers near Torii Street being shaken down by a handful of those Order of the Shadow Fist thugs. Maelik Kileam draws Yuriko’s katana and promptly challenges them all to a duel. The martial artists gladly accept the swordsman’s challenge, but did not anticipate the playing field would be evened by an unseen archer firing magical arrows from behind him. One thug was shot through the eye and died before he hit the floor, another was encased in ice and shattered into bloody chunks when he hit the floor… the third tried to run and the doppleganger cut him down.
“You’re safe now citizen! No need to thank me…” he says as the nervous grocer and his wife desperately try to remove all evidence of this crime from their store.
Later, once the dust of the previous days has settled a bit, the White Hydra mercenaries decide to slink back to their old home (now calling itself the “Plebeian’s Market”) to see if Anjeh will let them ransom some of their most prized magical items (that weren’t on them at the time of the attack) back from the Pariahs.
It’s a bold request, but turns out the drider could use the cash more than the items (nice as they are) and so while they do remain homeless, they do manage to buy their possessions back from the people who stole their home.
St. Jezebel is also faced with a choice. Since the gargoyles vouch for her, she would be permitted to continue living here at the mansion, and not have to sever her (still so fresh) ties to The Meld here. However should she remain loyal to the White Hydra, then they will instead remove her Birthstone from the building’s masonry and she will (once again) be a homeless (and therefore clanless) gargoyle, cut of from the deeper mysteries of The Meld…
St. Jezebel decides to leave with her Birthstone.
While they are there, the White Hydras also notice that over by the witch’s mechanical-legged hut they see The Weeper “overseeing” young Beedle’s efforts to repair the hut’s legs (and presumable get it walking again). The young girl behaves very obediently and seems quite terrified of the death tyrant… and who seems disinterested in Beedle complaints about the hut’s upstairs cupboard being “haunted”…
Also, ever the daredevil, Maelik Kileam could not help but pay the Market a visit in disguise (and to pay to get some of his stuff back too). While he’s there he approaches the table manned by the sphinx Professor Hadit and his son Ra-Hoor-Khuit. There are some very interesting books for sale, but MKKM has other plans…
Utilizing the powers of his new Mark of the Hexblade, he asks the professor if perhaps he would be interested in purchasing a book… and then produces the cursed volume of Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales.
Prof. Hadit eyes grow wide in fascination as he begins to thumb though the volume, and immediately the doppleganger can see new pages of illustration he’d never seen in it before… images of hieroglyphs, and pyramids, and sphinxes… all berneath a sunlit sky.
Suffice to say, he’ll take it…
Blackspire Session 73 – Passing the Book
A small victory, but one nonetheless…
So… while it does certainly seem that the White Hydra Mercenaries (and associates) are finally rid of the curse of Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales… the book did promise to extract three stories from these storytellers.
Thus far… they have “told” but two…
And yet, they rolled up three stories…
Perhaps Mother Gristle’s Fairy Tales is not yet done with them…
While their forays into Jade Town continue, another matter has come to their attention that seems to arrest it fully. As they move about the streets of Blackspire, they begin to notice that the city has been papered with the full month-in-advance announcement of the yearly social event of the season… The Prince’s Ball!
Attention Citizens of Blackspire!
I, Prince Justinius, on behalf of the Vampire Princes, invite you one and all to attend the 443rd annual PRINCE’S BALL!
To be celebrated in accordance with Doom tradition from the 17th through the 23rd of Necrodius, and held throughout the seven great castles within the Necropolis that comprise the Black Palace.
Those who may find themselves within our gates shall be our honored guests, free to partake of the infinite amusements, sensations, and treasures it will be our humble pleasure to lavish upon attendees one and all.
As always, we promise such delights that make the living of life worth dying for.
Throughout the whole of the festivities, guests can expect to enjoy:
- The Endless Feasthall – courtesy of Prince Justinius, enjoy an endless banquet served complimentary in the Vomitorium during all hours of the festivities. Each day will feature the finest cuisines from every corner of Terregastia, each certain to tantalize the senses.
- The Marquis’ Casino – courtesy of the Marquis d’Lain, with tables that never close, try your luck at nearly every game of chance ever conceived, win fabulous fortunes, play your way into the high roller games, and even earn yourself a spot at the Highest Stakes table courtesy of the Queen of Blades. Lines of credit can be made available courtesy of the Dragon Bank.
- Pit of the Voivode – courtesy of Voivode Vladiel, watch, gamble on, or even participate in six long days of bloodsport featuring every type of gladiatorial combat ever conceived. Fortune and glory await!
- Orgy Chambers – courtesy of Countess St. Lovebane, leave your weapons and inhibitions at the door, partake of the finest aphrodisiacs, and indulge in your every carnal desire with your fellow guests and the skilled pleasure professionals of the Iniquiden.
- Hookah Den – courtesy of Caliph Rahzeen, partake of the finest consciousness-expanding concoctions ever produced and discover new sensations that transcend the boundaries of life’s mundane nature.
- Resting Places – it will be the distinct pleasure of our servants to provide you with temporary lodging in accordance with your station if at any point you request it during your visit with us. Hospitality is our motto.
Additionally Doom the 17th will feature:
- The Invitational Ball – receive the personal welcome of the Vampire Princes and hear Prince Justinius’s traditional annual Doom address to his honored guests. A must for all vampires who will wish to move freely about the party.
- Mystery Play – experience the epic story of the Seven Dooms of the Liche King on the World Stage, this year interpreted by NEVRON and the Carrionette Puppet Theater (a white rose affair).
Lolthsnoon the 18th will feature:
- The Janissary’s Challenge – beginning at 1st bell, up to once an hour you may place your name in the Janissary’s bowl and receive a precious gem in return. A new name will be drawn each hour and then that contestant will be eliminated from the competition. Last until the Dead of Night on the 23rd and you keep all your gems!
- Wizard’s Chess Placement Tournament – All divisions welcome! Bring your finest enchanted set or just watch others compete in what has become perhaps the largest Wizard’s Chess competition in all of Blackspire! Top prizes include a seat in the Semifinals and a reward of up to 10,000 crowns.
- Battle of the Troupes: Auditions – Hundreds of talented individuals risk it all each year just for their minute-long audition upon the World Stage. The top performers of the day will receive modest prizes and call back invitations to compete in the Battle of the Troupes. The three Black Rose Trophies this year will be awarded for the categories of Music, Dance, and Theater and hopefuls may audition for as many categories as they wish, as many times as time allows until Last Bell strikes on the 18th. Will you be the next Lustromo and take home all three trophies in a single evening?
- The Rose Auction – 9th bell – 9th toll (a black rose affair).
- Plaza of Justice – at 5th toll on this day and each day to follow, join Voivode Vladiel in meeting out justice upon those few odd guests who have displayed disrespect to the hospitality shown by the Vampire Princes. Group participation is encouraged!
- Slave Wagers – Try your luck at the Tectorum, courtesy of Gluckshaw’s House of Fortune. Wager your own servants and slaves for a chance to win some of your competitors’, or even take home the entire pot!
- The Floral Cotillion – commencing at 4th toll, dress to impress and perhaps you may earn yourself a coveted white rose.
- Libertine Society Meeting – All is Permissible So Long as it is to Excess. – last bell (members only)
Parothsnoon the 19th will feature:
- Wizard’s Chess Semifinal Tournament – only the finest Wizard Chess competitors will find themselves competing in the Semifinals. Top prizes include a seat in the final competition and a reward of up to 100,000 crowns.
- The Most Dangerous Game – test your mettle in the most thrilling hunt known to man or beast. The top trophy collectors will receive special surprise rewards courtesy of Voivode Vladiel.
- Battle of the Troupes: Call-Backs – The best performers in the categories of Music, Dance, and Theater each have five minutes on the World Stage to impress none other than the event’s very own Master of Ceremonies, Maestro Phalagiari himself. The Maestro will personally chose the thirteen best acts from each category, who will each receive a prize of 1000 crowns and a place in the Battle of the Troupes competition.
- The Finishing School Pageant – or “The Goddess Pageant” as it is now more commonly referred to, features the loveliest ladies the city of Blackspire has to offer. Competitors are judged on a combination of Beauty, Style, Charm, Poise, and Talent but only one can earn the coveted Goddess Tiara and be crowned Ms. Goddess 550. Judges this year include the Marquis d’Lain, Lord Johan Blackhand, the Crimson Shadow, the Sultan of Sin, and one surprise judge who will be chosen from among our worthiest guests. Will it be you?
- Polymorph Party – Nothing counts when you’re something else. Come sample a little strange and get a little strange yourself at one of Countess St. Lovebane’s most popular sex parties (a white rose affair).
- Family Roulette – come for Carousel and watch 10 brave families risk it all for countless valuable prizes in what’s become one of the most popular attractions to the Prince’s Ball in decades.
Scythenoon the 20th will feature:
- Stump the Prince – wager a book Justinius doesn’t have (a white rose affair)
- Grand Melee –
- De-constructive Criticism – come see some of the most aspiring new talent the Blackspirian Art World has to offer reveal their hearts and souls to our most discerning audience hanging in the Folter von Hriger Memorial Gallery. Your opinions are integral to these artists gaining the exposure they so richly deserve.
- Battle of the Troupes – come one, come all to the World Stage Theater to see the thirteen best 10 minute performance acts of the year compete for your approval to earn one of the seven seats in the Semifinals and a reward of up to 10,000 crowns.
- Dance – 6th bell – 9th bell
- Music – 9th bell – 6th toll
- Theater – 4th toll – Last Bell
- The Fashion (Mafia) Show (down) – who will Ms. Goddess chose to wear?
- Labyrinth of the Mind –
Darknight the 21st will feature:
- Wizard’s Chess Final Tournament – only the two best Wizard Chess competitors will be left to compete, with the grand prize of 1,000,000 crowns and the honor of a match against the Liche King himself before the following Doom.
- Archery Competition – bring a date S.I.N.
- Gallery Opening – come see the unveiling of the most critically acclaimed work chosen by our own distinguished guests and auctioned off the following night. Only the very best work shall earn itself a permanent place in one of the Vampire Price’s private galleries.
- Battle of the Troupes: Semifinals – the final seven in each category are allotted an entire half hour to compete on the World Stage and win one of the three remaining seats in the Finals and a reward of up to 100,000 crowns. Your opinions matter more than ever in the battle for the Black Rose Trophy.
- Dance – 6th bell – 9th bell
- Music – 9th bell – 6th toll
- Theater – 4th toll – Last Bell
- Masquerade (a white rose affair)
- Carnivale – Carousel
- Three Guilds of Fleshcraft Society Function – (guild members only)
Spirenight the 22nd will feature:
- Fine Diner’s Club (a white rose affair)
- Battle of the Troupes: Finals – Selected as the best of the best by our distinguished guests, at long last, the final three acts of each category will give up to an hour long performance and the victor will win a reward of up to 1,000,000 crowns and receive the coveted Black Rose Trophy. They will then have the honor to perform for the Vampire Princes and their favorite guests at the Final World Stage Performance.
- Dance – 6th bell – 9th bell
- Music – 9th bell – 6th toll
- Theater – 4th toll – Last Bell
- Black Rose Award Ceremony – Dead of Night
- Artifact Auction – be sure to bring your pocketbooks (a black rose affair)
- Mind Swap Party (a white rose affair)
- Feast for the Undead – (College of Necromancy members only)
Psinight the 23rd will feature:
- Formal Duels
- Circus Maximus
- Final World Stage Performance – the year’s best performances in the categories of Dance, Music, and Theater will have honor to perform their magnum opus before the assembled Vampire Princes and indeed all of Blackspire’s elite. A once in a lifetime opportunity that only true genius and talent can earn. (a white rose affair)
- Libertine Society Initiation – Few can say and less are certain of what hides behind our velvet curtain… – (members only)
- The Bloody Anointing – The Crimson Graal neigh overflowest. At the first drop split we may yet again invite the most worthy of guests to join the ranks of the Vampire Princes. Is it your destiny to sit our Seventh Throne?
And let Death hold Triumph yet another year!
The White Hydra Mercenary Company already has a standing engagement to serve as Lady Kessindra (von Hriger) Harkadies’s security escort to this event, and so Jade Town or no, they have every intention of attending the Prince’s Ball.
And with Scythe Night fast approaching, Solina has other priorities, and starts dedicating her remaining hours before the inevitable crime puzzling over the clues of the seemingly random history of these serial killers’ crimes…
Maelik Kileam however, has become single-minded in his focus to win the Battle of the Troupes competition. He and Jolly Paul go looking for Liff the elf, and find him propping up the bar in a little dive tavern just off the Street of Dark Symphonies that caters to “real” musicians called the Troubled Cleft.
Liff is actually delighted at the prospect of competing at the Prince’s Ball. He introduces the two musicians to a few acquaintances of his including a steampunky gnome bard named Fredigar Tinkerton who is a literal one-man-band able to play up to a dozen instruments at once and whose familiar is a fez wearing, cigar-smoking, shit-talking monkey named Grinder who accompanies his master with simple instruments (like cymbals or the triangle). They also meet a trio of sibling orc percussionists Oolak (on snare), Auhk (on bass), and Mok (on kettle drum) collectively known as the Sepultura Bros.
Together they decide to form a band. Liff thinks they should call themselves The Jape-Changers, while Fredigar prefers something more like The Allegrolites, and the Sepultura Bros. suggest the band name be The Fine Edged Flails.
The doppleganger and the satyr are still not convinced…
Meanwhile with the necessity looming, and determined to grow accustomed to the form of a sapphire dragon, Stormtooth decided he needed somewhere very private to practice behaving like one. He ultimately settled on finding some abandoned fortress in the Necropolis, and after a bit of searching, was able to find the perfect place far from prying eyes. I mean sure, there were a dozen or so zombies wandering around the place, but Stormtooth had expected to have to do a little “house cleaning”.
He fast began to appreciate the advantages inherent to the sapphire dragons, namely the ability to hover in place and fly about with perfect precision. He had dedicated a few solid days to practicing different dragon forms (as he could only change from one form to another once a day) until his practice was unexpectedly interrupted.
It seems Stormtooth was not safe from the prying eyes of sorceress extraordinaire Methadriss of Many…
The irate talos is now the Church of Tiamat’s most wanted fugitive. Even Last Kiss and the might of the Lifequencher’s Union couldn’t protect her from the combined wrath of the dragons and they turned her out of the Guildhouse. No where in the city is it safe for her to be seen, and she’s had to fight off a handful of random assassination attempts already…
All because Stormtooth blamed her for something she didn’t do…
He’s ruined her life… and she’s understandably pissed.
Incidentally… it also turns out that (thanks to him) the Blackspirian Senate recently voted to approve a full military occupation of Oathmaar, capitol city of the Kingdom of Vord, and center of the IceFire Rebellion. The Red Dragon Army is even mobilizing some kind of ultimate weapon the Academy of War Magic has been working on secretly for years that she’d only heard about before in whispers… something called Citadel Wargrace.
But none of that matters to her now…
She promises she could destroy Stormtooth right there if she wished. She’s quite inclined in fact to disintegrate him to into a dust that will soon blow away and no one will ever know what had become of him… but that won’t help her get her life back. At this point nothing will…
So instead Stormtooth is going to help her get what she needs to make a new life. She doesn’t bother to reveal the details of what that is going to entail, but she makes him promise to meet her here in this place on the Spirenoon of every month and she will tell him what he needs to do before their next meeting.
To coerce his absolute obedience, she then casts the spell Dominate Monster on Stormtooth’s shocker lizard familiar (though it takes a few tries to ensorcel the willful little guy…) and promises the blue dragon that if he ever tries to double cross her, or warn anyone else about their clandestine arrangement, he’ll find that his familiar has suddenly been overcome with the urge to jump into the ocean and start swimming south for the endless horizon…
So yeah… Stormtooth agrees to cooperate…
Blackspire Session 74 – The Yazuka Who’ll Refuse Ya…
The White Hydra begin to get a sense of the Jade Town “gangscape”.
So, after many long days of searching, wandering, investigating, bribing, and otherwise gathering intelligence (and thanks in no small part to them sending Kano Kensai out each day in his street vendor guise) the White Hydra mercenaries finally feel like they’re starting to understand the culture of the neighborhood and get a cohesive grasp on the various gangs and other parties of note that seem to have a stake in Jade Town’s future.
- Street Fighting – there seems to be a very active underground culture of formal duels and declarations of challenge among the warriors of the Jade Town population. Any location that advertises itself as a dojo or similar organization seems obligated to defend their honor against any opponent who might question it. Most fights of this sort are to submission, but accidents happen… In fact there are many official (and in many cases unofficial yet still well known) locations specific to various groups where such formal competitions regularly take place, and winning such matches is the key for many martial artists to build up their reputations.
- Kumi-Tae – overseen by a shadowy organization known only as the Ryukirimaru Shakai (or “Dragonslayer’s Society”) this annual competition is traditionally held outside the Imperial Pagoda on the 15th of Lolthis, and is the most well known (and typically the most lethal) full-contact (weapons permitted) martial arts competition in the city. Many popular competitors risk their lives each year for a chance at wearing the coveted Belt of the Dragonslayer until the following year’s competition, where they can then defend it. Traditionally, it is the local yakuza boss who sponsors and coordinates the yearly competition, and Rorco Horntempled often even offered a position in the Onizuka retinue to the victor… but this year without a oyabun, and the identities of the Ryukirimaru Shakai uncertain, it’s uncertain if this year’s Kumi-Tae will even take place.
- Kusagari Yakuza – this gang is purportedly made up of Jade Town gangsters that have all joined the Cult of the Spire, and many of them sport a number of half-golem modifications. Many years back the Kusagari regularly clashed with the Onizuka gang, but over a decade or so ago came to some sort of arrangement with Rorco and the gang left Jade Town to take up full residence in the Cult of the Spire’s complex in the High City. Now with the Onizuka gone, the Kusagari are back and have taken over all the businesses along the Street of Six Coins. The Kusagari operate out of a mahjong parlor near the row of taverns and brothels along that street, and rumors say their leader is a vampire spire-knight named Dame Rei Oren.
- Street Fight Stage: Saki Alley
- Onizuka Gang – rumors persist that while Rorco Horntempled’s old gang is down, they are not yet out… and have been blamed for much causing much chaos about the neighborhood, particularly for those struggling to control the Gambling Den or the Tea House. If this is true, both their new hiding place, and their new leadership are still unknown.
- Street Fight Stage: Unknown
- Torii Street Dojo – located along the street of that name, apparently this influential dojo is the one producing the new members of the Order of the Shadow Fist. Under the instruction of the infamous Sensei Koguchisama, hushed whispers tell of an even more secret technique he shares only with his most prized students, the Order of the Shadow Claw. They even hear tell that once Ryukai the weretiger was Koguchisama’s prized pupil, and even won the Kumi-Tae a few years ago.
- Mt. Jifu School – part exercise gym and part bath house, this “social club” trains its members in the art of sumo wresting. The reputation of its ancient oni proprietor Master H. Yundai is legendary. While their sumo wrestlers tend not to issue formal challenges to those outside the school, they happily compete with any outsider foolish enough to challenge them. And apparently members of the Mt. Jifu School have won the Belt of the Dragonslayer on a great number of occasions in the past.
- Street Fight Stage: Mt. Jifu Onsen
- Shirromune Clan – the well respected family of smiths possess an veritable arsenal of weapons and armor worthy to outfit an army of gods… if only someone would come along worthy enough to earn their respect… the White Hydras sure didn’t cut it the first time around…
- Window Hook Row – this long winding street street plays host to large number of slaughterhouses, butcher shops, and Jadish restaurants… as well as countless street vendors and food carts. This stretch of neighborhood is run by a local butcher and pig breeder, a one-eyed hobgoblin everyone seems to call “Emperor” Toko. Roving gangs of Toko’s local toughs are overseen by a violent were-boar called Mu Shu. The White Hydra even hear a rumor about a dozen or so thugs that Spike had sent into Window Hook Row mysteriously went missing… and the very next day “Emperor” Toko threw a big impromptu street festival for the entire neighborhood… and served everyone free barbecue…
- Street Fight Stage: Dire Boar Slaughterhouse
- Tokutomi Clan – little is known about this ancient noble family, and its members are rarely seen outside the grounds of their fabulous estate. Purportedly once a powerful samurai family in service to a clan of Amethyst dragons, they are now more famous for being one of the wealthiest silk importers in all of Blackspire.
- Rickshaw Boys – less of a gang, and more of a loose affiliation of coworkers, their human-powered taxis are a common sight in Jade Town, and a rare one outside it. Considered a local institution, and with the streets as unsafe as they are, perhaps more important than ever, most Rickshaw Boys travel armed with swords, daggers, and some even more exotic weapons to guard their fares as they pull them about the city. Two and four seaters are common, but minotaurs, ogres, and other giantfolk number among the Rickshaw Boys and can handle larger conveyances. Various “Rickshaw Depots” are spread all around Jade Town and most Boys will give you a lift anywhere in Jade Town for an octo, and anywhere in the city for a crown. Rumors persist the entire outfit is run from the shadows by a mysterious boss known only as “The Shogun” but no Rickshaw can (honestly anyway) claim to have met him.
- Street Fight Stage: The Garage
- The Sage’s Throne – the proprietor of this opium den is an elderly woman named Yufu, but who most refer to as Madame Euphoria. Once inside, the establishment appears to be an endless expanse of blackness, with small islands of illuminated couches, divans, pillows and other comforts for their clients’ extended stays. The old woman claims to run the establishment on behalf of her grandfather, the wise mystic Xu Xiang-ku, whom none may visit in his inner sanctum save for his most devoted disciples. While not a gang in the strictest sense, Madame Euphoria seems to enjoy complete obedience from the small army of mummy-like addicts that are constantly hanging about. She also eventually confides that since the collapse of the Onizuka, Madame Euphoria has lost her source for Dream Mist, also known as Mordaine Vapor… and her inventory of this incredibly potent and highly addictive drug is quickly dwindling.
- Seven Siblings – spread throughout the streets of Jade Town are a number of large pink cherry blossom trees draped in prayer wreaths and illuminated by dozens of magically lit lanterns. Clearly holding some spiritual significance to the locals, who regularly stop to pray and leave offerings beneath in the trees, they seem to be tended by an order of pink robed priests known as the Sakura Druids.
- Jade Dragon Monastery – housing hundreds of aesthetics from very young children to the very old, these monks train day in and day out to perfect the various disciplines of their martial art. Venerating the Jade Dragon Emperor as a living god, these warrior priests have kept the traditions of their art alive for millennia. Venerable Master Lao Kang, an emerald half-dragon, is said to frown on the Kumi-Tai competition, but that has not stopped many a monk from competing for (and sometimes winning) the Belt of the Dragonslayer.
- Street Fight Stage: “Fight Street” beneath (Ch’en) the 1st Son Tree.
- Jade Town Claywerks – in the west side of Jade Town the mercenaries discover a curious sight. Quartets of animated terracotta warriors are paroling the streets and accosting anyone opening brandishing weapons or is otherwise engaged in open violence. In time, they follow one of these patrols as it completes its rounds and discover these clay golems originate from a large structure called the Jade Town Claywerks. Guarded round the clock by an army of terracotta warriors, and employing a staff of hundreds, this business is one part workshop, one part enormous retail store, where every manner of dish, pottery, brick, tile, and any other type of clay good imaginable is sold to every strata of Jade Town society. Its owner and operator is a famous wizard named Golemoro who is said to dwell in a fabulous magical mansion deep under the ground beneath the Claywerks.
- Lucky Golden Fish Market – most fresh fish caught in the Harbor and consumed in Jade Town is often first sold by the various fishmongers located along Low Market Way. However, of late rumors are reporting that an ex-yakuza oni (and former sumo champion) named “Tsunami” Tatami has taken over a local Dim Sum restaurant in the Lucky Golden Fish Market and set up a permanent residence there. He has taken the daughters of all the local vendors hostage, and the oni’s presence has attracted a few dozen goblins eager to capitalize on the grip of terror he holds the establishment in.
- Spike’s Boyz – since burning of the Imperial Pagoda, Spike’s efforts in Jade Town have scaled back a bit, though day-to-day his gang still seems committed to hold on to (or retaking) control of the Gambling Den and Tea House properties (especially if Daki’s Crew is the one currently holding it).
- Daki’s Crew – Daki seems to still be wasting effort and manpower on holding the Imperial Pagoda, but most of his efforts in Jade Town of late seems focused on consolidating his hold on the Ashood neighborhood of Jade Town.
- Street Fight Stage: Clod Row
- The Murder – whispers abound that there exists a secret order of tengu ninja of unknown loyalties and unknown agendas. Most residents don’t take the matter too seriously… except for the Kogu Shinobi that is, who seem keenly interested in any information related to this topic, no matter how extraneous it might seem…
But, as it must, Scythenight has finally come, and so Solina finds herself sitting beside Damien Darkmace in the bowels of the Guildhouse within the central chamber of the mechanical insect Hive Mind, overseen by the half-golem illithid Father DILLIGENCE. Damien wants to be here to search through all the most recent reports that come in this evening looking for instances that might be the doing of the Scythe Night Killers.
Eventually, two possible leads come in at around the same time, and so the partners decide to split up and each investigate one instance. When Solina reaches the home of a dwarven family of Rockshields in the Vider’Ran District, of whom the husband Tormund vanished mysteriously from the dinner table just a few hours prior, it doesn’t take her long to piece together this kidnapping was work of the Scythe Night Killers. She knows she has less than a few hours before the body of this dwarf, likely along with another dwarf he was somehow acquainted with, will be left dead and mutilated somewhere that it will turn out to be common to both of them.
Worst of all, while the wife Geta’s back was turned to the kitchen when her husband Tormund actually disappeared, it seems their eleven year old daughter Hildi, now struck dumb with fright, likely saw the whole thing.
With the aid of a little Domination, Solina is able to get the little dwarf to reveal what she saw… which as she feared was a giant cloaked skeleton who suddenly appeared and made everything hold still while it took her daddy away with its long yellow knife and vanished…
Damien’s own lead was a bust, so he makes his way to the scene and the two race against the clock to gain as much information as they can from the incredibly distraught Geta… who is starting to piece together that they seem to think her husband is in the process of being murdered as they speak. Eventually they are able to at least learn that Tormund was the head of security for the Highs Shift at Pickett’s Manor here in the Vider’Ran District.
However, when the two investigators pay a visit to the gates of Pickett’s Manor, they are apologetically told by the guards (and then later by the head butler Abicau the Ghoul) that they are regrettably unable at this time to speak with the current head of security for the Lows Shift (a dwarf named Euron Foeskull who apparently lives on the property). The investigators state their case to the stoic Abicau, who listens to their arguments patiently for a spare few minutes.
However eventually, despite their best efforts, they are ultimately unable to receive permission from the butler (or any of the other Pickett staff) to gain access to the manor house (something that the vampire Solina physically cannot circumspect). A frustrated Damien threatens to come back with a warrant from the 1000 Eyes, but he knows that even if they do manage to secure one, they won’t receive it in time to make any difference to the investigation.
And so, once again the trail of the Scythe Night Killers grows cold…
Blackspire Session 75 – Children of the Kiln
The White Hydra Mercenary Company potentially make a new friend… Golemoro of the Jade Town Claywerks…
The White Hydra Mercenary Company decides that perhaps this Golemoro fellow making these terracotta warriors that patrol the area might make a good ally in their quest to restore peace to the region.
With doorways flanked by two intimidating terracotta horsemen, the Jade Town Claywerks is certainly one of the largest and most popular businesses in the entire neighborhood… though it’s clear that the local unrest has negatively affected sales of late. After a series of inquiries over the past few sessions with members of both the retail and manufacturing staff of the business, eventually they were able to secure a meeting with the owner/operator himself and they arrive at the agreed upon time.
A strange, elderly wu-jen (a type of Jadish wizard) riding upon a floating lotus flower, it appears that Golemoro has a fascination with earth-based creations, but has a particular affinity working with clay. Golems in particular are the subject of much of his study, and he has dedicated a portion of his security force to keeping the streets surrounding the Claywerks safe for the locals and his customers.
Golemoro also proves himself to be a savvy and well-connected businessman, and it seems he is not completely ignorant in regards to their altercations with Rorco Horntempled and the Onizuka gang. He even claims to have sent his servants to White Hydra Hall to leave an offering on Bishamonten’s grave.
It is the respect the White Hydra had shown for their honorable foe that ultimately convinces Golemoro that the mercenaries can be trusted enough to lend them his aid. He offers the White Hydra safe haven (and his hospitality) in his stronghold below the Claywerks for so long as they continue to work towards restoring peace to Jade Town… a goal he most fervently shares.
While the White Hydra see but a few rooms of Golemoro’s fabled mansion below the Claywerks, it is quickly evident the wizard is fabulously wealthy with a dedicated (and extremely protective) staff. One of the most curious features of the mansion’s rooms is the odd illusionary magic that seems to make the images painted on the walls appear to move. Branches wave, grass sways, and out of the corner of the eye, animals seem to move about the scenes.
Additionally, they happen to notice that the pattern on the kimono of the female servant who later appears to wait on them appears to very closely match the design painted on the wall… a camouflage of sorts that renders the unnaturally stealthy woman almost invisible. They didn’t see her when they were first brought in… they only even noticed her when she politely announced herself in the room where they were retiring to rest…
They feel safer already…
Later Maelik Kileam and Jolly Paul’s (still unnamed) band make their debut at the Troubled Cleft. Thanks to some excellent die rolls and some well-placed synergy, the ensemble manages to give a truly epic performance, one that gets the Art World community buzzing and quickly begins Jolly Paul’s rise to stardom.
A few more songs like that and the patrons assure the band they’re a shoe-in to give the final performance on the World Stage at the end of the Prince’s Ball.
Blackspire Session 76 – A Code Writ in Blood
Twin winds sing their dance
Scarlet petals on the breeze
Bloom pink in the snow
-death poem of Seito Kentori (writ in his own blood)
With the Jade Town Claywerks as their new base of operations the White Hydra begin to refocus their efforts on the gangs of Jade Town. Golemoro also insinuates to the mercenaries that since the fall of the Onizuka Gang he has been working on the creation of a new golem that is very, very near to completion. Once awakened Golemoro hopes his newest creation will become a valuable resource in the White Hydra’s struggle to restore order to the streets of Jade Town.
And then Golemoro even offers the White Hydra Mercenary Company 1000 crowns a week to serve as guides and tutors for this newest creation…
So while Stormtooth continues sapphire dragon practice, Maelik Kileam and Jolly Paul take up the shugi yoshi act once more, but this time steer well clear of Torii Street… and instead take a pass by the Lucky Golden Fish Market which they see is completely overrun with goblins who harass everyone that comes inside… which the two mercenaries opt not to do at this point…
Elsewhere, St. Jezebel and Kano Kensai also take the the streets and end up running afoul of a small roving gang of goblins led by a belligerent gnoll warrior. When Jezebel returns the gnoll’s insulting tone, a fight ensues with Kano focusing on the goblins while the gargoyle used her golden spear to do battle with the gnoll. She manages to impale the hyena man’s shoulder to the earth and painfully extract from him the name of his employer.
And then, when the gnoll reveals that he works for Daki Goldtooth, an irate Jezebel angrily ends the warrior’s life…
At that point, the goblin attackers that Kano failed to slay quickly scattered and the two of them were left there in the middle of the street bloodied (not their blood mind you) and surrounded by dozens of awe-struck onlookers. They decide to high-tail it out of there…
However, Solina’s interest in Jade Town technically doesn’t go any farther than her agreement to serve as a tutor for Golemoro’s new golem, and so instead she makes her way back to the guildhouse to touch base again with Damien Darkmace and see if there have been any new developments with the most recent Scythe Night Killers incident.
However, it’s now Spireday of Necrodius already, almost three whole days since the disappearance of Tormund Rockskull, and Damien complains that neither that dwarf’s body, nor the current whereabouts of his counterpart Euron Foeskull, can be located anywhere… He also reports that the new heads of security at Pickett’s Manor are being really tight-lipped about the whole thing…
Something isn’t adding up…
But that’s not the most pressing business at the Guildhouse for Solina today…
The Crimson Shadow tracks her down there as well, and informs her that the Order of the Dark Mirror has received a Sacred Invoice from the 1000 Eyes… and that (as a courtesy) he will allow Solina to be the one to carry out this particular assassination.
When Solina reviews the Sacred Invoice however, she discovers to her shock it appears that Baron Dumasthrah has offered 50,000 crowns for the death of none other than Count Zarathusa himself!
The window of the Crimson Shadow’s courtesy extends to Spirenoon of next week. The Sacred Invoice also expires in one week, and if Solina won’t take care of it in that time, the Crimson Shadow will make sure someone in the Dark Mirror does… he won’t lose a contract like this to one of the other Orders… who he promises will be only too glad to accept an assignment assassinating a disabled beholder…
And so that’s it… That brings everything up to date to the point where we begin recording the Blackspire RPG Podcast & Webseries.
And… where’s Melaria Kymygian now, you might ask?
Turns out… she’s still flying…
But… perhaps not forever…
Stay tuned for future adventures as Melaria and Frostflake try to join up with the freedom-fighters of the IceFire Rebellion…
Blackspire’s just getting started…