Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thundertree At A Glance

Thundertree as it is called today owes its name to a long lost but not forgotten tribe in Chult who, in their naiveté welcomed a group of foreign adventurers into their tribe about three hundred years ago. 

For a year and a day the primitive tribesmen and the strange cultured men shared everything from social customs and ceremonies, introducing new exotic foods, and taught each other different ways of hunting and survival. 

After a long palaver the tribal elders, in a dispute that resulted in many tribal fights, shared with the explorers their most precious secret. Adored and held sacred by the Thundertree tribe was Zalantar.  Also called the Black-Wood, it is a pure ebony wood unique to the jungles of Chult that is durable and pliable excellent for bows. Their leaves are usually white or a light autumnal color. The buds of the trees that bloom each Full Earth have seeds that are said to possess holistic healing and restorative properties.

Zalantars are a botanical oddity in the sense that one plant is composed of several trees that stem from a central root making them one of the longest lived trees of the Realms. A closely guarded secret to the Thundertree tribe until the strange men from the north, in an act of greed and desire, stole the tribe’s store of Zalantar seeds and each took young a virgin woman as a bride before leaving the betrayed tribe in disarray and chaos.  

The explorers started as four adventurous brothers: two sets of twins, however on the voyage north one of the brothers was murdered by his treacherous bride. Undaunted the twins Lorin and Dhoran and the surviving twin Caramon traveled north on both sea and trail with their treasures and later settled along the warm and rich Neverwinter river. Here the transplanted Zalantar thrived and bore fruit in the year-round temperate climate of the Neverwinter Wood as did the families of the adventurers and their coffers.
Riverwind Family Estate and a Zalantar Tree

Three-hundred years later, generations of the Riverwind family invested their acquired wealth to build a frontier settlement of sturdy, well-made cabins for the lumberjacks and hunters who enjoy prime year-round hunting and logging. Nearly all of the furriers, leatherworkers, rangers, and breeders work for the Riverwind family, a clan who pride themselves today at ninety members—more kin than even the Roaringhorns of Waterdeep. What makes their number so high is the preponderance of twins that seem commonplace in many Riverwind family births.

Notable personages-
Halden Tark: A cordial but sturdy man with an imposing appearance. His large size and obvious strength dissuades most fights and raucous games of chance at the Brewery—Thundertree’s only watering hole.

Borak Burliehelm: Breeder of Darovoi and likely the oldest dwarf in all the North. The tales of the threaded hunting dogs produced by his kennels are widely known and prized throughout the North.  
Peregrine Riverwind

Theodoric Waybeard: An elderly exiled priest from Helm’s Hold, not much is known about this man other than he is advanced in years, sickly, and does not see anyone—not since the advent of the Time of Troubles.

Elianna Amberstar: The official barony ranger and captain of the Riverwind family guard.

Neeva Harpel: Educator, sage, appraiser, and local magic expert.
Dwyam Marz: Former adventurer with a quick draw recount of tales about many of his adventures and, as many former adventurers do, is also the manager of The Pavilion Thundertree’s only Inn, owned by the Riverwind family.

Peregrine Riverwind: Master ranger, craftsman, and the most likable of the Riverwind family, unfortunately his weekly hunts and fellowship with the working class earn him rueful disdain from his highbrow family.    

Friday, December 14, 2012

We Deal In Lead, Friend

"Welcome to the Brewery folks,” came the well-oiled greeting known only by a practiced professional; “can I get you two fine travelers something to drink, a pint of graff or mayhap a stein of Herdsmen Ale?” In the background, sounds of constant shuffling as well as the deep drum of voices in blurred congress filled the silence between this verbal exchange.

“How much is a bottle of Blacksmith whiskey Sai? The Firehammer label.” asked a coarse but fair male voice in response. Somewhere a whip cracked and a hoarse bawled in protest just as a nearby woman laughed, squalling like a loon.

“That depends,” came the first solicitous voice. “On what kind of metal are we talking about?” A pause, then a metallic smack cut through the din of collateral activity.

“We deal in lead, friend” purred a woman’s voice, her familiar accent deeply laced with a warrior’s determination sharp edged and deadly.

Elsewhere the slurred voice of a man yelled, “ok, how ‘bout in the rain toots?!” This prompted a lengthy round of raucous laughter and banging commotion, but as the noise dimmed there arose a brief sound of flowing liquid, like water through a gulley then two dull thumps.

“I learned of your arrival last night… though I admit I was beginning to think no one would come north out of Waterdeep until after Wide Earth, things have changed around here and not for the better,” said the first cordial voice. “Mayhap you have even seen evidence of this yourself…” the man asked but his bitter tone sounded more like confirmation than an actual question.

“Aye we have, but that is not why we are here say sorry. We have come looking for an individual, a dangerous spy who has come into the possession of a tome that if unlocked, could identify every Harper in the North,” said the bottomless voice of the second man, putting an obvious verbal emphasis on the danger this poses. From beyond an invisible door opens and then slams shut followed by a wood on wood grating sound and the rush of wind.
“Do you say so? By the gods!” the groomed voice of the first man gasped.

“This is why we have come here Sai—to you to make use of the local Union. It is believed he hides somewhere near and there are those in Waterdeep that think the Union can help,” drawled the second man.  

“Do you have a description of this scoundrel? With Tymora’s luck I’ll have something helpful for you by sundown tomorrow—mayhap sooner by the gods. To whom does this rogue work for?” In the background many of the voices lowered as if wanting to hear the answer themselves.

The voice that arose to answer the question was the warm familiar voice of the woman. “We are looking for a man beyond thirty in years probably human, of average height but a stone or two on the heavy side; he has an acid scarred face hidden by a crude iron mask, and a voice—shrill like a bull-hag. The man often goes by the name Oran and though this man seems easy to identify Oran is the most elusive Zhentarium agent north of Secomber.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Flame of Inspiration

Positioned two-hundred feet away from the four wizards were an equal measure of dark containers. Square shapes that shook with its occupant’s apparent displeasure. The specialized group of wizards, known by their displacer-beast cloaks, stood opposite each container in exhibition while spectators watched from the many vantage points available in the courtyard of the Order. Cold wind buffeted the black cloth that covered the containers further agitating the monsters or whatever was imprisoned inside. Placed in equal distance from the wizards and the containers where four objects each on low pedestals: a mirror that was obviously stylized for a woman; a smoking censer marked with symbols of peace and tranquility; a warrior’s helmet bedazzled with seven glowing sparkling jewels; and a flask of some unknown substance and benefit.
Klarenden Eltorchul watched it all from his high window that faced the wide courtyard, a silent measure of theater as he regarded the exhibition with apprehensive curiosity. He was ancient by comparison to his colleagues; weather worn and battle scarred. Hell he was even down to one eye, only to be replaced with a magical one later, but he was the greatest at his craft and the wizards of the Order knew it; loathed him for it. Behind him three women, also paragons of their craft, were working fixedly on their shared creation. Klarenden too had a bit of theater for the people of Waterdeep, but this was cutting things just a little too close. There was only one more demonstration before theirs and that, if rumors abide, was an iron golem and gods knows no one has ever seen an iron golem before.

Arialana Ilzimmer and her half-sister Kereth gained their prestige not by the breeding and husbandry of threaded horses that was by far the province of men and their squires. Instead Arialana and Kereth catered to noble women and consorts by becoming master fashionistas designing gowns and sculpting trademark jewelry.  This work they now toiled over was unlike any task set before them, Arialana enjoyed the challenge. Once an avid adventurer, Arialana now spends her time winning recognition in the Order. Kereth on the other hand has always done things her way and lamented the responsibility of weeks of work that came with this commission.              

Klarenden watches as down in the courtyard the four wizards waited with steady confidence for their opponents to be revealed. Without ceremony the four black coverings suddenly shrank and were gone, the creatures were momentarily blinded but it was all the chance the wizards had to identify them and formulate a plan.

Even from his high vantage, Klarenden identified the creatures immediately and felt a pang of anxiety. When the black cloths covered the monsters in what was assumed to be cages or equivalent containers, but when the black cloth was removed there was no cage and each angry creature was immediately freed.

On one platform was a small primate; a Kech with wrinkled green hide and flat matted fur like wide leaves, excellent for hiding in the forest. Next was a disgusting humanoid plant; shambling mound, one of the more aggressive forms of intelligent plants and a favored pawn of the green dragons. On another platform was a white spider the size of a hellhound with several pink eyes; a goblin spider, known for their excellent ventriloquism and mimicry abilities. Finally a small fey-creature stood out from under the aegis of the black cloth; a korred with thick a black beard, long hair, and goat lower-half. The creature had a murderous, suicidal look in his eye.

Klarenden turned form the spectacle and observed the scarlet-haired keeper of the divine flame praying over their creation resting on the work table. Crysania Hiilgauntlet looked more like a warrior of Tempus than a priestess of Kossuth; fiery tempered and lusty, educated, cultured, and capable of verbal sparring anyone into submission- there was little doubt to people’s misjudgment of her. One night she told Klarenden that she had been touched by the Lord of Flames and she possessed a deep burning conviction, while statement had various meanings it gave Klarenden the inspiration into what now sits before the four of them.

Screams and cries of pain from the courtyard streamed into the workroom occupied by the four spell casters Klarenden, the Ilzimmer sisters, and the priestess; taunting them telling them ‘the end is nigh’. Arialana and Kereth placed the item on the table and set down their tools their work was now completed, and took a step back giving the other two plenty of room. As Crysania whispered Ignan words of power into the item Klarenden gathered the carefully measured components and began to cast the spells to complete the item. Outside the cheers and shouts of triumph in these closing moments seemed directed at the four in the workroom than at the four in the courtyard.

Fire suddenly burst out breaking doors and shattering the workroom’s windows. Not a magical surge but confirmation that their work had been a success. Waking from the momentary disorientation that comes with a sudden blast of energy, the four stood to find all the tables, shelves, and furnishings had been turned to ash- instantaneously incinerated. One thing remained and that was the exquisite staff, the object of their labor for nineteen days. This was no normal staff however. The staff was seven feet tall and was made from duskwood a hardwood tree that is resistant to fire.

The insight that came to Klarenden that passionate night with Crysania was this staff, a Staff of Fire. He was a paragon of his craft with staffs each one greater than the last, but this inspiration would be his legacy. While Maskar Wands put the Order’s gold and resources into magical scrolls of fire and flame Klarenden Eltorchul would, with the help of others, create a Staff of Fire to contest with the dragon Frostburn- a staff invested with the very Aspect of Fire.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Prane Is A Pain

For untold decades the old dragon egg rested quietly and comfortably at the bottom of the fissure; a red volcanic tear to elemental fire in the surface of the Northern Realm. Over time the fissure slowly filled with lava and ignited new growth within the egg. When the hatchling reached the level of growth necessary to break free from its shell, it was forced to draw nourishment from the lava minerals and liquid ore hidden in the red fiery soup.

Having no parents to rear her Prane grew up without social interactions with those of her kind, instead she was ‘raised’ by her volcano environment and through the centuries, was courted by many powerful efreeti sultans, salamander lords, and some tell even Kossuth himself one fiery year—The Year of the Long Summer.

Despite her hue, Prane was largely given a wide berth by frontiersmen and merchants alike when traveling near Neverwinter Woods and the Hotenow Volcano; though Prane is a recluse, it is her unpredictability, callous ego, and her elemental courtiers that give many adventurers pause. “Prane is a pain,” is a common saying among Neverwinter merchants and along the sword coast. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tales from the Host Tower of the Arcane 2

Beyond his reflection in the window, the man in a white cassock regarded the turbulent weather outside the Host Tower. Outside over Luskan the sky darkened with boiling clouds, thunder rose to a steady roll, and lightning crisscrossed the sky in spidery motifs. In the streets merchants hurried to cover their stalls as dozens of other morning shoppers as well as men going to work each scrambled to find shelter.

To the white-clad sorcerer’s left, beyond the reflection in the glass, was a woman of such stunning beauty that she rarely left the tower lest whole nations fall into war over her favor. Her skills and true purpose was used with tactical restraint.

Pointing out a strange rise in the tide, she wondered what interested Karlott, the ageless one, about the weather; then from the east a sudden upsurge from the River Mirar, exacerbated by the risen ocean tide washes away the Caravan Street Bridge right before her deep cold eyes. She gave a sudden start, a reaction Karlott did not like in the least but it did not remove the small subtle smile from his pallid face.

Within the Host Tower a silent alarm was employed causing every lamp and mote of light to turn a deep green hue indicating a local weather emergency. The change in the quality of light caused Karlott’s reflection to disappear giving the audience of two a better look down on Luskan despite the hair-thin green light now around each of the tower’s outer doors and window casings.

The River Mirar continued to swell washing the debris from the CSB down river and into Luskan’s Lover’s Walk, the central bridge. That too, was destroyed in large chunks of stone and mortar by the rising strength of the river. The two watched in silence as one by one the River Mirar washed away the bridges and viaducts joining many Luskan’s districts together.  

“It would seem that the gods of Fury have become restless and unruly high on their mountain city; pack your things dear-heart.” Karlott said as he turned to Kyrrolla, her long fangs protruding hungrily from anxious willing lips.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Political Landscape

Blue: Knights of the Fire Lance
Yellow: Lord's Alliance
Green: Dragons of the North
Red: Luskan and The Host Tower

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Staying Connected

As the days passed with alarming alacrity the Seven Samular descendants nevertheless upheld their divine pacts with their followers and the city by warding off the dire-winter, being an icon of glory in a grey-gloom existance, and providing purgatorial services for the faithless who reach the clearing at the end of the path. Indeed it was, for some faithful of these divine vessels, a time of troubles. 

For Ord it was a period of soul-searching and a test of faith; In Waterdeep Orsos gathered his team of twelve and ventured north in search of his patriarch; for Sunmet a personal choice was made concerning the Fate-spinner over his oath against Set; and finally Teldicia, who reminded everyone of the glory of the Horselord and his pending return. But for the hundreds of other followers, they would akin the experience to speaking with someone who has drifted off in personal contemplation; a sensation of there, but distant as if in a day-dream.

For Arsten, Briar, and Kalina the bond of Ka-tet could not have been stronger; lending you conviction in your battle against the black-skull undead dragon and giving you vision into their perils during the Mid-Winter convergence:

It was Arsten who discovered Armult Tesper’s dead body in an attack on Castle Waterdeep. Death had revealed the creature for what it was. Arsten kept this information to all save Baerom who used it, in political fashion, to propel himself to First Knight. During the Midwinter swearing in, House Tesper moved aggressively upon House Thunderstaff as dragons continued their siege.

Reflected in the surface of the placid Moon Well in Amphail, Briar was shown an image of a great tree of titanic proportions: The Grandfather Tree. Seeing the great tree reminded Briar of Eva’s rituals of old; the act of stealing life force and magical capacity. Remembering how it was on the Feast of the Moon and that it was Briar’s Moon Well that was required in the ritual before. Briar knew that this tree is the location for Eva’s Greengrass ceremony and it was Briar's quest to find it.

Kalina continues to solidify her divine place in the Shadow Thief organization as its Matriarch, much the same as Tauron has for the Harpers. With uncessing ambition Kalina began to use doors opened by Damian with the hopes the drow could be potential followers. In due course they offered her the Aspect of Darkness in exchange for one Kalina held. Being agreeable Kalina quickly learned that not all drow are happy with this exchange. 

Over the next twenty-four hours the distant whispers of prayers rise and return to the steady but not burdensome rhyme of devotions; you begin their acknowledgements as easily as a subtle nod of your head. 

Making your way to River Keep and your mounts Damian begins to hear a prayer coming from close by in River Keep; Eva realizes who leads the new Fate Shrine in Waterdeep by way of the prayers to Eva; Bordane learns of Ord and Arnivon's escape in Luskan and their formation of a sect to the Brooding Lord; and Tauron feels the effects of a challenge wrought by the evil dragon of Mount Hotenow. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Neverwinter Woods and Wide Earth

This forest seems to have a magical quality about it, or at least an air of mystic secrecy. The always-warm river flowing from the wood has its source deep under Mount Hotenow, a sleeping northern volcano home to fire elementals. The steep mountains north of Hotenow hide griffon lairs. These woods have never been logged by men. Neverwinter is feared and shunned by locals .and even today its depths are largely unknown. The woods are said to harbor fearsome creatures, and even orc hordes always go around the woods, never through them.

The Crags
Beset with frost-touched giants and trolls who live in the dead mines that brought men to the area.

Gauntlgrym is a large, underground city built by the dwarves of Delzoun for men in the early years of an amicable existence of dwarves, elves, and Samular's Kingdom in the North

This abbey of Helm Monks started as a single farm known as Helm’s Stead; however over the centuries it grown with its main buildings fortified against Uthgardt and monster attacks.

Mount Hotenow 
The volcanic Mount Hotenow is situated to the northeast of the city of Neverwinter deep in Neverwinter Wood. The active quality of the volcano warms the Neverwinter River to the point where it never freezes over, even in the heart of winter. Over history the volcano has acquired a reputation for attracting creatures of fire and flame including efreeti sultans, brass giants, and red dragons.

Morgur’s Mound
This sacred Uthgardt burial land is an altar mound shaped like a crude, long-necked, wingless dragon, the Uthgardt impression of the revered thunderbeast.

Tower of Twilight
To the west of Longsaddle, stands the Tower of Twilight; an enchanted tower that rises from an island in the middle of a small lake. It is invisible in sunlight, but as the light fades, the tower appears.

Wide Earth
In the North Wide Earth is a season when winter wanes and daylight begins to wax it’s warmth across the lands of men. In towns and cities nobles and common folk alike anticipate the coming of years end and to closing ones affairs. It is a somber time when individuals reflect on the year’s past ventures- both the mistakes and the successes and plans are set in motion business for the next year. Gods of rebirth, spring, life, and light are popular during this time. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bad Day at the Office

Khale finished his morning bread and washed it down with a quick drink. Several of his mine commissioners had entered the shack filing the past nights production reports and occasionally wishing him a good morning. Khale had taken over as mine warden for the Ten Thousand Trade Kings a few months ago increasing production by operating teams in each mine and generally improving efficiency. The religious zealots that previously worked the mine revered the metal to such an extent that they rotated mines, never harvesting from more than two in five year stretches. Khale suspected they had believed that their now dead god Talos, Bhaelros were Khale hailed from, would replenish their blessed earth, restoring the rare ore. Khale had no faith and years of experience taught him that this was a rich vein that would produce metal for years. As Khale remembered his childhood lessons Bhaleros was a destroyer, the idea of him replenishing the earth was laughable.

The mine warden started from behind his desk preparing to head outside and begin his first shift inspections. His few steps towards the door were interrupted by a chagrined, dust covered gnome entering that Khale recognized as one of their shaft box operators. “Good morning to you sir, sorry to be bothering you with this but my brother insists he is sure that he saw fliers in the night.” The rest of the gnome’s comments were lost to loud concussive sound that broke and clamored from behind their small office on the Mirabar Mountain. Every emergency bell in the small shack that served the officers of the mine began ringing, a magical distress signal from all of the active shafts at once.

Khale vision and movements slowed as the entire shack began to slide and move, the scene inside took on a surreal state. Among the strangest phenomena was that everyone’s hair stood on end and small shocking slivers of lightning pulsed around the now moving structure. Fear and realization stirred through the mine warden as he went to his death. As he was swallowed by the mountain he screamed, “Bhaelros has come!”

Mirabar the Jewel in the Mountain

“Welcome to Mirbar! Do you need a guide? My name is Sal… Sal Grimstalker, but don’t let the name mislead you Sai.” The dwarf said as phlegm filled laughter follows Sal’s crude attempt at humor. “And this is me brother… Igvand.” Hawking a troll-green puddle to the stone pavers, the crazy looking Igvand nodded in greeting.

Mirabar is a city of grim folk, hard work, long hours, hard drinking, and exhausted slumber. There is little rowdiness and little crime. Visitors are frequently watched to make sure they are not thinking of starting trouble or mayhap spying for other cities. Thieves are frequently apprehended rapidly by the militia, who employ professional ‘thief watchers’ throughout the city.

Some 20,000 humans and more than 5,000 dwarves live in relative harmony here, working the earth shoulder to shoulder. Rivalries over forging skills are common, but all regard fellow citizens as friends and the rest of the world as unfriendly. Treachery is unthinkable to the shield dwarves of Mirabar, furthermore it’s hard to tempt even the poorest human in the city. The miners are on constant alert for plots, attempts to sway or mislead them, and attacks or surveillance by rival cities or clans. Rocs are a common sight in the skies above Mirabar and the surrounding mountains that add a certain splendor to the realm as well as a constant threat.

Three distinct districts comprise Mirabar: the River Keep, the inner mining community called the Anvil, and Upper Mirabar. The River Keep is a ground-level borough where all trade is conducted; large merchants establish shops to barter and trade raw ore, gems, or refined metal goods to trade costers that transport Mirabar products south. Master craftsmen can also be found in the River Keep; mostly unfriendly shield dwarves who secretly clamor for social status among other craftsmen. River barges are also commonplace on the River Mirabar taking goods and metal wares to Luskan.  

The Anvil is a dwarf community who also shelter miners that do not have a place of their own. Many humans stay here their whole lives and are warmly accepted as veritable equals. Several shrines to the Dwarf-gods are placed at the entrances to the major mines indicating rich cashes of gems or ore. Basic needs are met here as well as exclusive smiths that make their living by word of mouth. The most fascinating feature of the Anvil is the incredible lift that can transport small caravans and important cargo from the River Keep to Upper Mirabar.

Upper Mirabar is a marvel and pinnacle of highborn living in what is commonly seen as another grime—layered mining city. Temples, noble villas, and numerous feast halls are found in abundance high above the clouds in Upper Mirabar overlooking the North from the Spine of the World. Upper Mirabar is a jewel in the mountain with its beautiful architecture and stylish designs; a sharp contrast to the River Keep and its function. Also in contrast to the picturesque buildings and wide thoroughfares is the reverence paid to the gods of Fury. Nearly every street corner and structure has a ward or symbol to placate either Umberlee, Auril, or Talos.

Galvendo’s Lodge: Galvendo’s advertising schemes are highly effective, for he is considered one of the top hunters in the North and the best to be found in Mirabar. “I guarantee you a shot at the big boys, if you want the huge racks, you’ve got to come through me,”  “Galvendo: Big Game Hunter Extraordinaire,” and “Kill or be killed at Galvendo’s.” His advertising, hitting right to the heart of hunters, explains why he’s very busy. He’s guiding people to the best big-game hunting spots in the Frozenfar.

Balkin’s Weapons Outlet: One of three weapons shops owned by a triplet set of brothers, Balkin’s Weapons Outlet is a fairly stock weapon shop. The brothers make their money by purchasing weapons surpluses from armies or smiths that supply large groups. These purchases are split amongst the three brothers’ shops.

The Goblet and Gems: This is the only exciting and impressive-looking tavern in Upper Mirabar. Its magically lit golden goblet signboard beckons to passersby. Inside, visitors find a crowded room filled with live music, dancing, and side booths where folk drink and enjoy the company of the ‘Gems’ the place is named for.

Hall of Sparkling Stones: This massive stone fortress stands at the center of town on a raised eminence or knoll, looming over Upper Mirabar. Its soaring central hall reaches to the roof, where a magnificent, many-hued glass window depicts the double axe of Mirabar encircled by flying dragons of various hues. The window casts its polychromatic light onto the ring-shaped council table below. The polished, black marble table is pierced by four passages to permit access to the podium at its center.

This is the Marchion’s palace and courtroom; the state chamber of Mirabar, where important visitors are received; and the meeting place of the council. The architects set out to impress the visitor, and they succeeded with awesome ease.

The House of the Bright Blade: This establishment is the most popular shop in River Keep among human tourists. It’s widely known as the place to get specially made swords and masterwork weapons. It’s the smithy and shop of the noted wordsmith Zespara Alather where she toils here with six female apprentices. Blades can be custom-made in two days for triple the usual cost, or in seven days for double the usual cost.

The Sign of the Forgehammer: Visitors who aren’t staying in the homes of Mirabarran hosts or the guest houses of merchant companies are directed by the Axe (Mirabar militia) to this inn. The Forgehammer stands with stables, a strong house, and kitchen garden in its own walled compound just inside the River Gate.

The walls of the compound are adorned with the symbol of the inn: a vertical hammer, handle down. The symbol appears on the stout, copper-plated, double doors of the inn. Beyond them is a dimly lit network of stone chambers, interlaced with chimneys, fireplaces, and dark stairs winding between the rooms. The inn is cool in summer and warm in winter, and guests’ rooms have bear pelt rugs and canopied beds for warmth and comfort.

Friday, September 7, 2012

High Captain Taerl of Luskan

High Captain Taerl of Luskan studied the reports again hoping to see what wasn’t there. The Warlord sighed resignedly and reminded himself once again that war was expensive. Finances on hand were limited and while there were certainly spoils in war, items recovered in battle are usually dispersed among the victorious troops.
The High Captain rang the servant bell resting on his desk which brought the warlord’s manservant knocking on his study door within seconds. “Romney I need you to quietly find my brother Gavail , please do it quietly. Bring him through the servant’s entrance; I don’t want anyone to know. Tell him it’s in regards to his plan, he’ll understand what I’m referring to.” Taerl only looked up from his reports at Romney when he had finished speaking. Truth be told the warlord disliked looking at his manservant, his face had been horribly scarred, one eye always looking in one direction. If Romney felt any emotion the warlord had yet to see it but the manservant was excelled at his post, always quickly responding and resolving any chore given to him quickly and efficiently.

An hour later a ruffled, tired looking Gavail sat in front of his brother’s desk in the warlord’s private den. Taerl handed over his humidor of cigars and waited for his brother to gather his wits as Romney quietly exited. Gavail was already starting to smile, realizing his brother had chosen to go along with his plan to recover enough wealth to support the war, the cigar was the symbol of victory.
“You are certain on the veracity of these locations?” Taerl inquired, “You understand this will have to be unofficial, it’s the only way we can secure our positions after the war.” Exhaling the rich smoke Gavail sarcastically replied “Do you expect me to answer you differently today than I have before brother? You are certainly prudent and becoming skilled at the politics of your position! There is risk brother, but not for you, I’ll just have lost my six finest men.”

Taerl's smile slowly appeared as he replied, “Actually brother I have some changes and your risk is closer to twenty men! We have a greater need than I previously realized.” Ignoring his brother’s sudden blustering shocked response the warlord continued, “You will send a team each to the three lairs your research has uncovered and in return for their loyalty in returning the treasures to us, these adventurers will be made land owners with taxation authority.

All of Romney’s attention was currently focused on listening to the conversation inside the Warlord’s den. To all appearances the manservant stood near his master’s door waiting for the bell to sound and jump to the leader’s call. The assassin couldn’t hear everything the brothers were discussing but clearly heard Gavail say Azurem the Blue. Romney was so focused on the conversation he almost didn’t hear the bell that was suddenly rung from inside. Shaken from his focus, Romney quickly resumed character and entered the warlord’s chamber in his guise as manservant.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tales from the Temple of the Moon

Randron sat astride his Darkenbeast, a docile animal he magically transformed into a savage beast under his complete control. While it flew through the many tunnels and passages to Waterdeep and the Temple of the Moon, his thoughts drifted as they often do to his plans for power and the various ways to that end.

His home city of Ched Nasad was in ruin thanks to an aspiring house looking to better themselves beyond their current status; it was an overreaching act that in their failure brought the wrath of every other noble drow house down in swift harsh judgment. House Ta’alen was no more and woe to any survivors lest they would be hunted persona non grata. 

Unfortunate really, Ireisal will be missed- she was an excellent lover after all, but her idiot brother will not. He was good with the blades but clueless in regards to drow subterfuge and intrigue.

Randron would quickly see his alliances change to a suitable drow house that was on the rise and one that held some meaningful power to usurp, because in Port of Shadows those who controlled one of the seven portals held the greatest influence in Skullport. It was all very new to the sorcerer, but Randron was nothing if not adaptable.


The moon penetrated the stylized glass overlooking the vestibule, a fractured portrayal of its celestial place in the night sky. The city outside was unmoving; seemingly frozen solid from the cold temperatures and the only sound to be heard was a seductress voice who delighted in in passing along unfortunate news to her advantage.

 “House Ta’alen is the aggressor house that started the civil conflict that resulted in the eventual collapse of Ched Nasad.” The pale drow said she had a tendency to purr between breaths, it was a trait the sorcerer and her white lion companion shared. “That makes you three renegades by my estimation.” Daren said knowingly to the trio of drow, she intended to convert these men to the cause and she intended to use every means at her disposal.

Skullport serves as the new home to Ched Nasad’s survivingnoble houses; clans that would know the truth of their situation or lest they be shadowed from the facts. One thing is for certain, little is known about their disposition toward each other or to us and what our group offers you.” Darien motioned proudly to the Moonstone that sat upon a tall stone pedestal; its radiance had a tangible effect on drow magic. 

It was no accident Darien chose this moment to air her orations. Behind Darien, Princess Moria and the Valsharess Mara Darkheart conveyed a noble demeanor to Darien’s claim and pursuit for reestablishment in drow culture.

 “I would know details of these houses in due course; in addition there is the matter of others to consider in our ultimate goal: the Melairkin and the Thayans.” Darien said at length disgust flashed across her features at the mention of the dirt-eating dwarves. “Valsharess Mara …”

“What makes you believe we are agreeable to this?” Randron asked stepping forward speaking over Darien’s words in disrespect to the woman, he was not Ta’alen but decided not to reveal this fact. Above, Randron’s eyewing familiar fluttered bat-like at the sound of his master’s commanding voice while Randron’s brother-in-law Gort, standing in the middle, was thankfully silent.

“I offer you the advantages of this temple,” Darien said motioning to their obvious surroundings. “and the gemstone… I am sure you have felt its rejuvenating essentia ever since the moon’s light kissed its faceted surface,” she indicated the hovering gem and the moon light that shown through the temple’s colored glass panes.

 “What makes you sure we would not just take the gemstone Jallil Darien?” Baloreik, the third drow said with a wink obviously taken with the power, confidence, and sexuality the exotic drow woman exuded. It excited him to the core; he wanted deeply to appease this woman.

Darien rose off her feet, levitating in a gesture of dominance over the men. The women, Moria and Mara each produced weapons and disappeared silently into the darkness. “Because I know you are of the marked House Ta’alen and would betray that fact to ANY surviving House or drow with a grudge to settle-- without a moment’s thought. We will exile you from this ground.” Darien replied coldly her tone agitating the lion padding along the inner perimeter of the temple.

Baloreik and Randron exchanged looks. Baloreik was eager as a cavalier, however Randron had his reservations. Seeing the doubt in Randron’s eyes Darien called out for all the drow in attendance to palaver. From behind dark pews, ashen braziers, and hidden alcoves several drow elves: men and women alike stepped into the moonlight at Darien’s beckoning. Within mere moments Randron, Gort, and Baloreik were in the company of dozens of renegade drow.  

“I would see us all adopted into the ranks of a worthy house," Darien said. "One that will recognize us for our sorcerous power and most of all… not to hinder us but sanction our search for the Aspects of Magic.”

Monday, September 3, 2012

Light in the Dark

The Tower of Luck stood like a beacon against the dreary wintery night; golden motes of light drifted like snowflakes from the peak of the tower to float silently along with most any passersby joining them on their walk through the dark cold city streets. It was not the warmth or protection of daylight, but the companion motes did well to improve the demeanor of the Sea Ward.

Inside the Tower golden banners hung from between the fourteen columns that circled the outer skirts of the inner rectory creating a lose ring around the worship proper where several people sat in silent prayer. Each golden hanging bore the heraldry of each registered noble family: Amcathra, Cragsmere, Ilvastarr, Roaringhorn, and a newly installed Cassalanter tabard. Upon the U-shaped altar another golden cloth, this bearing several universally recognized symbols of luck and protection, was unfolded for tonight’s sacred but dower prayer-vigil.

From a well-worn leather case Martin Luckjoy, High cleric of Tymora, carefully removed and arranged the deadly tools he would need for tonight’s gruesome work. With careful reverence he placed several silver pickets upon the golden cloth, each stake engraved with runes of both life and death.

Whispering the words of greater blessings Sai Luckjoy produced two wooden mallets; hammers made from the limbs of the great Grandfather Tree and a pure silver dentol seven inches long. Next came vials of water to be consecrated, measures of tamaie, as well as many unknowable alchemical components, garlic, holy soil, and of course his holy symbol and prayer book.
Martin looked up meeting the gaze of the Avatar who held Tymora’s power, like a bookmark in a celestial tome of the heavens, and bade her to consider the items so placed before her.

Vampires have come to Waterdeep Lady, the undead cannot be allowed quarter regardless of risk. The light of too many lives have been forever extinguished- death is a truth yes, but undeath is lie and an abomination.” Martin said resolutely. From the gathered folk, someone fainted at the mere notion of vampires.

“Give me leave I beg so I may cleanse the city of any and all undead poised to visit their atrocities on the goodly folk. Time is precious to us and with each passing night I fear their numbers will grow beyond even my abilities to control.”

Heilean Eather, Avatar of Tymora, smiled a lovingly at Martin and to his genie compatriot who also shared Luckjoy’s far-reaching loathing for the undead. The gesture was sisterly in nature but the act made his heart soar with renewed faith and devotion in his tenants; both he would surely need in the coming nights.

“You have been a trustworthy cleric Sai Luckjoy; devoted to your faith and calling. I would not stand by and watch vampires inaugurate themselves while we struggle and toil at other war-fronts.” Her tone was impassioned and laced with divine power. Cries of ‘hear her’ and ‘you say true’ resonated from the praying folk.  
“Go Sai Luckjoy and with thanks, but before you go I would see your devices sanctified with the divine aspects of our Lady Luck,” she said picking up each tool and weapon from the golden cloth. “In these devices I place the Goodness needed to overcome evil as well as my Protection in your sacred hunt.”

Friday, August 31, 2012

Spy vs. Spy

From the high eves of Castle Waterdeep, perched comfortably near a pair of stylized gargoyles, Lakari watched as lavish carriages pulled by threaded horses arrived delivering the Gunslinger-Knights of the Firelance as well as highborn nobles to the formal announcement. Lakari was determined to know everything about the entire Order of the Firelance and her sources implied strongly that tonight Piergeiron was going to grant honors of First Knight.

A little late for a palaver Lakari mused as she directed her attention back to her surroundings. She looked to the night sky were occasional snowflakes fell lazily on the already ponderous layer of existing snow fall; with the ever present danger of dragon attack, one always kept a wary eye on the sky.

What she saw was not dragons (for a wonder) but subtle disturbances in the white snow—someone else was up here as well. Now she had a choice: continue with her reconnaissance or investigate this new curiosity. She would not be distracted from her course; so Lakari dropped to a lower snow laden roof-top and began her perilous task.

She mentally recalled the layout of the castle and reached the ledge just outside Piergerion’s administrative office where she saw the ruler of Waterdeep himself and his attendees leaving to join the palaver below.  Lakari only say them for an instant but was glad she did; they would not be returning for some time if at all tonight.

The office was spacious and ostentatious which rekindled her loathing for the Firelance and what they stood for. Paintings of previous Waterdeep lords; preserved heads of elk, peryton, and other beasts of the hunt decorated the walls as bear and tiger pelts adorned the floor.

As Lakari examined the wards and traps she would have to overcome before she could begin her objective in earnest when movement in the office caught her eye. Through the frosty glass Lakari watched in fascination as an individual stepped out form the mural on the office wall; previously undetected by herself and apparently the Eld himself.

The individual dropped his chameleon guise and began to search the office in haste. Lakari could only watch as the intruder, a human man of average height, quickly discovered Piergeiron’s strong box and began the course of opening the safe. Anxiety gripped the Wraith as she began to work on the window hoping to find out what this individual was after; Lakari’s insight told her it was something to be had.

The individual had it open faster than she would have believed; Lakari was not even close to opening the outer casement, she doubled her attempts and just as the trap was triggered the ‘chameleon’ saw her. 

Magically held in place Lakari could only watch as the man escaped with his untold spoils.

The minutes seemed like hours to Lakari as she knelt in the cold night air on the roof facing the office window. Finally, when the enchantment abated the assassin moved—like a wraith.

Reaching the snow-covered streets of the Castle Ward Lakari quickly found the assailants tracks and began to follow them. The long boot strides told her the individual was running but as she followed them they narrowed indicating his over confidence; she however did not slow.

Turning onto Wall Street Lakari came to an abrupt stop in front of Claudanius’ Owlery where she found the man dead in the street; fresh blood painted the street red. She knelt to search the man but knew before she began she would find nothing. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Week in the North

Our journey began with the purchase of a bonded pair of war-mount trained hippogriffs from the Gundwynd ranch in Waterdeep. Leaving Thursday, a cold lonely march on the wing ensues, with a brief encounter with a herd of peryton the only excitement during a week of wind and snow filled skies.

     Early Thursday night, the Shield Tower of Torm came into view as we descended toward Yartar. A tribe of barbarians were using the cover of shadows created by the setting sun to launch an attack on the Shield Tower. They were supported by dragonkin, including a wyvern, a bladewing, and a horrific razorfiend. The whole group was led by a pair of yuan-ti Cultists.
     The Tower was defended by dwarven dog handlers and a pair of hound archons, celestials under the command and watch of Treydarr, an older, other-worldly seeming human. Eva made palaver with him as we battled the monsters within the horde. The battle was quick, delivering death to the draconic beasts, and one of the yuan-ti cultists. The other cultist was captured and questioned later. Treydarr revealed an operational treaty between Torm and Waukeen; Waukeen would provide the citizens in Yartar, and Torm would protect them and their walls. He saw our griefs agianst Waukeen as an issue of honor, and regarded our quest as a legitimate one. While he stated that his men would not stand in the way of our dispute, he cautioned that to destroy the church of Waukeen was essentially a death blow to Yartar. Most of the city saw them as the leadership of the community and credit the church as the reason for their success. He was not at all aware of any presence of the minions of Set within the church, but he was aware of the heavily intertwined trade company, The 10,000 Trade Kings. He was not suspicious of their relationship. Overall he was leery of Bordane and Damian, but seemed to accept us politely, if not as friends.
     Interrogation of the yaun-ti yielded mixed results. We had decided to test the ingestion of hearts of lesser dragons, and to do it while we were questioning to intimidate the survivor. Well, it was a negative reaction we experienced, and it even left a lasting pall over Bordane and Tauren. Bot are certain that only when they have cleansed their palates with blood from a true dragon heart can they lift this pall. Finding much humor in the turn, the survivor did yield some information before he was killed, and it was confirmed thru the questioning of the other yuan-ti. They called themselves Sons and Daughters of Dragons, and they were the Cult of the Dragon. In their view, they served all dragons, and the Tribe of the Great Wyrm had been included into the Cult. The Cult was based in the church of Set and the 10,000 Trade Kings in Yartar. The closest dragon they knew of was a copper dragon who arrived in Yartar on the feast of the Moon.The attacks on the Shield Tower were a matter of standing orders from cult leaders.
     We approached the city late, but were able to secure lodging at the Pearl Handled Pipe under the guise of wealthy traders. Fallon served as our face man, and with Eva's terrific disguise skills, we went un-noticed. The next day, we all went about different ways of gathering information. Fallon went out and asked questions about the 10K Trade Kings and purchase barding for our vulnerable hippogriffs. Bordane and Damian walked about, scouting the city, and found the ruined temple of Tymora to be covered by a powerful illusion,
not destroyed. Only they could see through it because of their birthright gifts. Eva used her scry spell, and flexing her magical might was able to communicate with her brother through the spell. He was in the mines of Mirabar, they all were, captured and held by the 10KTK. Tauren overheard talk in the inn pub that the uprising (our family) had not ended until the copper dragon appeared.
     All of this led us to the conclusion that all of our true fights lie to the north, in Mirabar. We decided we would leave immediately, stopping only to investigate the mysterious illusion-covered fallen temple. Most of us anticipate discovering a shrine to Set, hidden and coiled within...

Test of Faith

Barnathrum, known as the Lord of Warlocks was also one of several minor kings of the Whalebones: a collection of over fifty tiny Trackless Sea islands, some no larger a mile to two miles across. Over the past year Barnathrum worked tirelessly to accumulate power, wealth, as well as a trusted cohort. His mastery over diplomacy complemented his penchant for making pacts with evil outsiders.

Clara Graves was a necromancer and renowned island guide. Her beauty was legend across the Whalebones as petty kings vie for her attention by sending invitations for feasts and celebrations in her honor. Together Barnathrum and Clara worked behind the scenes to install a puppet-king as monarch of the Whalebones and themselves as his chief advisors. King Garr Ulfsson was just the Northman king they choose; strongest of any Finback islander and a keen naval warrior who cared little for the administration of the islands but who longed for open sea adventure. King Ulfsson was perfectly at ease while his advisors dealt with the day to day giving him leave to explore new islands and new dangers.

War came to the Sword Coast on this Year of Shadows as well as the calamitous godsfall; deities of Faerun found themselves dethroned and their crown jewels spread across the seven realms. The war, all over a stolen grimoire, started with an attack on a Luskan merchant caravel as a Rauthym warship searched for the stolen tome. Open sea conflict arose threatening all sea trade north of Waterdeep. The Northmen and pirate kings soon discovered that they had more in common than they had as differences and joined forces.

It was Barnathrum who advised King Ulfsson to band all the Whalebones kings together and join with Rauthym and Luskan to begin raiding the Sword Coast in large numbers, disrupting trade, and agriculture to monopolize sea trade in the North unawares of the genesis of the conflicts.


Now on the deck of the newly seized Mermaid Sword, Barnathrum looked across the prow of the ship and spied the first of Luskan’s naval vanguard, a welcome sight and then turned to Clara.

“Ready the Waterdeep prisoners Sai.” Barnathrum said in a low voice, his hair and robes flapped briskly on the windy deck. “The Captain’s Confederation will have some questions for the Waterhavians.” He dismissed her by giving her the ship’s Ring of Water waking while looking at her solemnly.

“As you command,” Clara purred looking at Barnathrum lustfully. “Are we to keep them alive? The dead tell no falsities master, I can make them sing if it pleases you.”

“Yes my dear, High Captain Suljack wants that pleasure for himself… after of course he is satisfied they serve no further purpose and he has learned everything they know.” Barnathrum answered flatly.


Below the two islanders Ord, Malakan, and Arnivon sat shackled and exhausted in the Mermaid Sword’s brig, a small dank room that was as cold as mid-winter’s night; their weapons and personals confiscated and the link to their god severed. Each had a look of dire expectations ahead, this was a test of faith that will either guarantee them position in the afterlife or damn them forever.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tales from Deepwater Prison

Meritt Archneie loved the Sea. The sun in its reflection, the power and the force of the waves excited her beyond her physical state and entered the realm of spiritual. To Meritt the Sea had a language all its own; a dialect that no one else seemed to understand.

When little Meritt was thirteen, a chance meeting with a similarly young merfolk girl of Deepwater Harbor, changed the current of her life forever. Meritt found that she could speak with the sea-girl and was therefore was delighted. All that rainy summer, Meritt would swim out to play with and in one case actually defend, her new friend Kiiri.

That year, Meritt’s parents announced they were fed up with the ‘storms of the North’ and had decided to move south and away from the Sword Coast before winter. Despite Meritt’s deepest and sincere objections, they were adamant. Despair gripped Meritt in a way she had never felt before; she could feel the tide receding and her heart and purpose going out with it.

The night before the family move, a tempest came to call upon the City of Splendors. It was a storm to end all storms like a pyrotechnic finale at Midsummer. Dark billowy clouds raced with pounding winds and thick pouring rain. It was beautiful Meritt thought, like an orchestra playing a triumphant sonata.

Outside, with the late summer storm dancing and pirouetting around her, Meritt stood fearless in the warm downpour; back to her home as she faced the Trackless Sea beyond the towers and villas of Waterdeep. They did not understand, she pondered as she shifted her haversack thinking of her parents; a life away from the smell of ocean as well as the taste and feel of the Sea would be like an eternity in purgatory. Without looking back the young Meritt Archneie left her home and paced her way toward Deepwater Harbor and to her fate.

Seven years later…

The ship was getting closer! The daemon's words prove true. His power over the winds was bringing them salvation and escape from Deepwater Prison. Meritt stood amongst other anxious prisoners; cold and feverish to escape, waiting to board and hijack the late night ship.

As the ship neared and the battle had begun, Meritt noticed how the harbor continued to wash up the convicts like seaweed on the beach. Then something caught her eye, the large waves had uncovered something—a magic abalone shell. Meritt carefully gathered up the shell and examined it, suddenly oblivious to the battle waging around her; indeed it could have been wheels away from the woman and her fascination. Her breath stopped as she realized what she had found; no, what the Sea had blessed her with. Excitement welled up in her like a coming storm—it was the mythical Orglara, an ancient text sacred to Umberlee!

Meritt reverted her attention back to the situation; the conflict at hand; and began to realize that several prisoners were retreating back into the ‘safety’ of the prison and that Agglemax’s plan had gone awry. She smiled as coldness filled Meritt, a deep-ocean cold where the warmth of the sun dare not venture; with the Orglara she could elevate herself to become Umberlee’s Dread High Trident. Maintaining her emotionless smile, Meritt turned with the flow of convicts reentering the prison where she returned to her cell and began to contemplate her plan and the seduction of Agglemax the Corrupted.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chapter Five

The countryside surrounding Yartar was an oasis in the midst of hostile winter weather; the snow was not as thick and the Evermore Way looked to be well maintained. The large town sits comfortably along a northern eastern peninsula where the Subrin River joins the River Dessarin, the main two rivers of the North.

A third smaller inlet river flows into the Subrin just north of Yartar where you can also see a number of buildings where several river barges are docked.

On the west bank of the River Surbrin lies the Shield Tower; a serviceable fort surrounded by a simple timber wall; a flag of Torm flies proudly high along with two other flags of color.

As you take in these details a battle trumpet is sounded from somewhere within the fortification spurring tired groups of men-at-arms into action, and with them dwarven animal handlers complete with daeraman hounds that barked viciously in anticipation of battle.

Beyond the fortification scores of Uthgart, barbarians of the Great Wyrm, emerged from a northern hillock and began to charge the Shield Tower their weapons held high; cries of battle and blood filled the late day countryside.

Back at the Shield Tower you see several war hounds have broke off and darted up the steps, to the battlements heedless of any obstacles; followed by a pair of dwarves and a wizened old man. The dogs bark and growl and seemed to clamor over one another until their bodies suddenly began to meld together; their form grew taking an upright stance, and shifted into two magnificent Hound Archon paladins clad in full shining plate armor—a symbol of Torm over a glyph of Fire design blazing like an inferno on their breastplates.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It had been a long week for Galoban. From the time he had gathered Trustcoin in hopes of garnering Lord Samular Tauren's ear, he had been caught up in the whirlwind pace of gathering power and position in the service of his lord. For weeks, he had been scouting rumors, scouring the city for hidden clues, and delving into the finest libraries of Waterdhavian nobility. The amount of information he had collected was astounding. Even as he palavered with and bore witness to palaver within his lord's Samular tet, and became aware of the "aspects" they pursued so aggressively, he had dismissed it as a different type of magic, a type of magic only a few could assimilate and master. Until he started researching why magic was in Toril, and how it followed rules that allowed it to be harnessed. Then he started listening more to the Samular discussions of the new magic and the ascension, and their grave concerns over who would gain control over the magic of the world. Then he saw the Samular Tet, nay, Pantheon, assembled for the first time all in complete divine form, and he knew he was standing among Gods. This moment struck Galoban as the world was struck the night of Godsfall. For the next week, Galoban contemplated, and reflected, and tried to decide what he really believed. Exactly 7 days after his enlightenment, he finally succumbed, and prayed. Not the quick prayer he used to implore the Lady of Luck with a dozen times a day, nor the thoughtless prayer of a traveller wishing for good weather. No, he gave himself to his fate, and begged the Samular Lord Horseman, Gypsy Lord, The Charging Knight to take him as his destined servant and show him his path. He sobbed his prayer in a song, sung and strummed across a golden harp. He sang until he heard an accompanying voice, a golden voice that answered him in time to his harping. It was Taurens voice, and it sang of service to Glory, and Battle, and Knowledge, and Retribution and Death and what lies beyond it. It was a song of destruction toward dragons, and preservation of humankind. It was a song of bravery, and battlefields in the sky above Waterdeep, and platoons of cavaliers charging forward in devastating sweeps of dragons in mid air. It was a song of Gods' Ascension.

He awoke and was clear headed for the first time in a week. He finally knew what he must do. You see, magic was the key. In what was to come, wars needed to be won, and they would be, by someone. Whichever side had better command over magic certainly had the advantage, whether that came in the form of arms and equipment for troops, or healing enough to keep them alive. But it was clear that magic was bound to divinity, and to master it, one must serve divinity.

As Teldicia lay the mantle of priesthood across Galobans shoulder, his thoughts were on the holy song that called him to service. He felt incredibly inspired by the visions of cavaliers and their coursers charging up into the air to slay dragons, and he envisioned calling upon his domains of Travel and Glory to bind the necessary enchantments.