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.