Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tales from Year's End (the Red Rocks)

“They must suspect an attack or something.” Maskar turned toward the young speaker who looked at him for confirmation, his demeanor firm and confident.

Edwind Helmfast was the eldest son of the Noble Helmfasts who boasts a Sword Coast shipping and shipwright tradition that has kept the Waterdeep market stocked even in the late months of winter. Called the ‘Young Captain’ because even at an early age Edwind was able to navigate by the sun and stars, judge distance and weights; and he could read the weather with uncanny accuracy.

When news of an armada of pirate ships moving south from Luskan came to Maskar’s attention he knew instinctively that this is just the prelude to war with the Hosttower. This was the tactic the Arcane Brotherhood will use to divert Waterdeep and her resources from the real attack. This is when they intend to make their move. Why? Because that is just what he would do.

Maskar Wands knew well the location the Arcane Brotherhood intended to use for their magical ceremony, an ancient Netherese form of magic. Maskar knew something else. Something that he hoped the Arcane Brotherhood was not aware of, and that is- the secret of the Red Rocks. Thanks to the Samular Tet Maskar knows where the Arcane Brotherhood will be and when. Maskar would take the fight to them.

Maskar was mildly aware of the young Sai Edwind, a third-year wizard in the Order, but when the news of the Pirate came, Maskar immediately enlisted Edwind’s support along with several other members of The Order. His sea faring prowess would see them through the hazardous Red Rocks, free from duress as the wizards summon their minions to take up the fight against the minions the Hosttower Sorcerers would surely have in their employ.

Maskar gave the Young Captain a look of deep confidence.

“Of course they will be expecting something, but the key to any surprise is to capitalize on events as they
occur; plan for improvisation Edwind, because in the theater of war there are no scripts to adhere to. We will monitor their activity from a far and intercede at the most critical moment forcing them to make a decision. A decision what will delay them long enough for us to immediately gain the upper hand and destroy them.”

Maskar removed a wand from his sleeve and gave the signal for everyone to be on their guard, the time to move is close. With the sun now overhead Maskar new they have begun, now it was all instinct.

Day light began to wane, this was the time! Maskar was the first in the air, leaping headlong into an enemy ritual.

The wind caused his voluminous robes of office to flutter and wave giving him the look of a falling manta-ray of magical destruction. Maskar looked down at the Hosttower assemblage who gathered in what looked like an ideogram in the shape of a glyph. They were expecting something- yes, but did not know in what form trouble would take.

The wizards of the Order sent their minions ahead and overwhelmed many of the ritual participants, an advantage that would not last Maskar knew. The day continued to darken giving everything a bloody cast like looking through red colored glass.

With the initial surprise at an end, Maskar weaved spell after spell praying for good fortune so that no spell go awry. Wizards landed and bounded about, leaping around the battle field in confusing directions to disorient opponents as well as to get more targets in crackling lines blue fire and fiery cone-shaped blasts.

The Sorcerer’s retaliated erecting several magical walls and summoning invisible stalkers to fight in the battle.

Then the sun went dark.

Tales from Year's End (Agatha's Easel)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tales from Year's End (Diloontier’s Apothecary)

Commissioned by the Knights of the Firelance as well as the Sons and Daughters of Samular, the alchemist Vexter Diloontier had worked for weeks brewing healing potions and gathering resources for the attack everyone feared was coming. There was a solidarity movement in Waterdeep and it did not matter who you were or what gods you revered- nearly every man and woman, noble or commoner felt the need to defend the city.

Vextor was born in nearby Amphail but the recent dire winter forced him to move to Waterdeep where he acquired a shop and began to contract out his skills. He was able to hire on a couple of assistants, and while the two journeymen were skilled and allowed Vexter to meet deadlines, their racial hatred for each other as well as the general dislike for the two by many goodly folk of the surface… having a drow and a svirfneblin together is risky business practice.

Gort Ta’alen is an ignorant savant, slow in all mannerisms short of gladiatorial ya-ha but a brilliant alchemist- a natural at brewing just the right amount of ingredients to produce maximized effects. He also possessed a natural talent at inventing unique poisons and says he could devise a poison to have anyone of hundreds of results he claimed to be able to craft. Vextor was happy to have his help.

The diminutive Mortos Ironbeard however, swore and used vulgarity at every turn and delighted in taunting Gort with expletives that went unheeded by the slow witted drow. Vextor was impressed with the svirfneblin after learning he had a unique magical ability trait that enabled him to craft his alchemical transmutations quickly.

It was late evening and all three alchemists and retired early for the day knowing that the next twenty four to thirty six hours would be a trying time for the city and her peoples. But Vexter was up and alert when the city-wide alarm sounded. All three men took remedies to make their sleep light and shorten their reaction times. They were dressed, armed, and in the potion repository in thirty seconds.

The repository was the storehouse for the hundreds of restorative and curative potions they brewed; medicines that would be needed in the hours to come. Vextor Diloontier’s role would be to stand and wait for a rider or raven to tell him where the potions were needed and to take them there.

As they waited riders could be herd galloping through the cold cobblestone streets. Standing in the alley, it was hard for any of them to tell where the rider was heading. Then a fright so powerful rose from them like a fierce desert wind, fear wrought sweat pasted their exposed skin. They all felt like running in a panic- it did not matter where just RUN!

Then a curious sensation blew over them; now instead of fear it was a deep carnivorous thirst. It was as if the sudden violent sweating depleted Vextor, Gort and Mortos’ bodily fluids leaving them dehydrated. Suddenly they were overcome by the thirst and turned to the only thing to drink that was readily available… the healing potions.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tales from Year's End (The Observatory)

Noland Tagart looked up and marveled at the cosmos from a little known observatory on Mount Waterdeep. Some say he was spoiled and lacked the sense to come in out of the rain, but he considered himself handsome and strong. Noland was one member of a small tet of AO worshippers who sung to the ‘Overgod’ imploring the entity to make sense of the chaos and for wise choices in regards to the hierarchy of the heavens.

Noland regularly made the pilgrimages to the Stairway… to the Tower, which is how he found his observatory. In a crook where Castle Waterdeep met the mountain there is a long narrow ledge that offers a great view of the south eastern sky. It is on this ledge Noland came to watch the celestial displays, as was the case this Year’s End with the promise of an eclipse.

“See the rot on the face of Selune herself… the cycle of life is broken. Woe to the sons of Amaunator and the daughters of Eronia!”

The sudden discourse shattered Noland’s wonder at the broadening eclipse. It sounded broken and slurred but alive with insane madness.

“Wh- what?” Noland turned weapon in hand and his eyes fell upon the most horrific sight of man he had ever seen.

The speaker was a leper dressed in a black rotted cassock with its hands and feet wrapped in old bandages. Yellow-brown eyes peered out from a black helmet and his teeth bared.

“…the cycle of life is broken, the Rotting stopped the cycle… it promises only death.” The leper continued, inspired. Suddenly the Shadowed One rocketed to his feet.  “Look with despair the rot upon the moon itself!”

Looking up at the moon and seeing it was horrific; it was not a beatific heavenly occurrence as Noland imagined but a ghastly and blighted growth that seemed to swallow the moon within its tumorous corruption.

Overcome with emotion Noland fell to his knees and burst into tears, he could not help it. He looked down
at the mountain side and saw that everywhere the shadow of the eclipse fell, the ground began to rot and decay. Trees withered and died while parasites were corrupted into horrific consuming things.

Then the shadow of rot fell upon the observatory. Noland felt a consuming power try to overtake him, but fought it off; then from behind him the leper fell immediately silent from his rantings to utter a cryptic phrase that bespoke utter madness.

“I am the Darkbringer, the Jawed God, and the Rotting Lord… I bring to you… wretched people of the Realms your salvation: the world must consume itself to renew itself.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

Years End at Heroes Garden

   The mood at Heroes Garden was resplendent. All of the faithful were aglow with the excitement of their lord, The Charging Knight, home at Waterdeep for the celestial holiday. By Friday morning at First service, one day before Years End, all their plans and preparations were complete. They were ready, one and all, to defend their Grounds, and follow Their Gypsy Lord when the dragons came again to wreak havoc upon the peoples of Waterdeep.

Teldicia has been in a state of enervated bliss. Serving her lords needs has replaced her need for sleep, achieving the same calmness of mind to prepare her daily rituals through lustful ministrations to her Lord. Overseeing the church, and by default the efforts of all its followers, she has kept up with the growing need to cure spoiled food and water, and has stockpiled/created 50 cure light wound potions.She also issued the command to prepare spells but not cast any, as previous holidays had shown there would be no rest this night.

Captain Arina and Fallon have worked closely together with the lieutenants to come up with a battle plan for saving as many lives as possible through careful placement of the troops and resources in Heroes Garden

Candace, stable master, oversaw the moving of all stock to other barns. Some barns are located at the edge of the gardens, while some are at other nobles' villas. The only horses within Heroes Garden are those serving as mounts. She has stayed at the temple with her three packs of hounds to help with guarding against unseen intruders.

Alegan of Waterdeep will guard the grounds immediately surrounding the tower. His platoon stands guard on horseback in groups of three, never closer than 80 feet apart.

Vataan Harpell and his platoon of cavaliers would break into groups of four and spread far out to the edges of the garden. Their job was to help followers and citizens that fell to the panic of the dragon flight and get them to safety.

Erradus Ilzimmer and his platoon of cavaliers oversaw the locations of the Tarm stables, and would stand ready to ride, whether it be to transfer messages at the request of their Lord, or to buttress troops somewhere in the north wards. Because of his influence, the Ilzimmer  had offered to shelter a large number of Tarm mounts.

Finally, Galoban had his own contribution. He had written an official church battle hymn, and taught it to every bard and musical student he had access to. Every group of warriors and priests called to service tonight would have with them and a bard to sound the battle hymn in glory to Tarm, and stave off the fear that the dragons relied upon so much.

When the first alarms sounded at 1:00 in the morning, no one in the heroes garden was shocked. When the Horselord appeared, and flushed out a dragon for the Samular god of thunder to sunder, no one was surprised. It was different this time. They were prepared. The Samulars were Home.

Tales from Year's End (Deepwater Harbor)

Arveiaturace moved her mammoth shape smoothly and without disruption; she and the ocean were as one. Her scales of pale powder blue faded way to alabaster contrasted the sparkling luster of the ice she wore all around her like armor. Her eyes beheld the bright glint of cunning which is rare among white dragons; though this made her no less brutish or savage in heart.

Arveiaturace watched her ‘retinue’ carry out their commands; her deadly ice breath modified in the shape of a rampaging brute. With large crushing mace-like fists of ice they glided away from Arveiaturace, out of the sea waters, and towards the West Wall of Waterdeep. Moving with surprising speed the animated brutes skated up and down the mud flats threatening the integrity and security of the West Wall....

With the grace of a queen, Arveiaturace regularly swam the Sword Coast. She had earned her territory when she defeated the Kracken Slarkrethel of the Purple Rocks and assumed her mantle, assets, and position- such as it now was. Slarkrethel was once a leader of a secret information and spy network centered in Triboar and Yartar called the Kracken Society; but it collapsed after the Illithid Exodus.

Overhead along the surface of the waters where beyond is dark evening sky, Arveiaturace watches with interest as a single an ironclad warship left Deepwater Harbor. This was beyond advantageous, the harbor would be undefended! With the speed and agility of an eel, the dragon slithered through the opened harbor gate undetected.

Focusing her will she expanded her aura of terror as an act of supremacy, none dare challenge her- she earned her right to work her mischief here...

Looking up at the surface Arveiaturace counted forty-nine ships big enough and heavily seated in the waters to possibly carry siege weapons. She worked her magic cloaking her targets on the surface in a thick cloud of icy fog and then one by one she began to sabotage each ship...

A species of evil giddiness fell over the dragon when she recognized a mark on the bottom of the last vessel; it was the mark of the Society. On the underbelly of a ship where only Slarkrethel would be looking. Arveiaturace had agents to rival many clandestine groups in the North- including Auril in Luskan! She had agents in Waterdeep; however her hate, always simmering, overtook her and she burst from the Deepwater and into the Dock Ward in a deep furious rage. 

Using her wings and hindquarters for support on the buildings Arveiaturace used her hands and crushing tail to snatch surprised people and throw them as far as she could into the city. Legs snapped and spines contorted as warriors and commoners- running from the terrible white beast- were suddenly and violently jerked up and hurtled away. As her rage continued unabated several robed individuals, each richly enchanted to battle, bounded in with their one-league boots….
Across the ocean blue, me and you!
Was it wrong for Klarenden Eltorchul to anticipate to his advantage the dragon’s next attack? We know when they are coming, the problem is that Year’s End, Feast of the Moon, all the festivals are celebrated by every culture in the seven realms but different ways and the danger lies in where the other attack will also come from. He could not think of that now, Klarenden had his own personal struggle to deal with.

He needed to test his Staff of Fire before the Ascension; equivocating this conflict as dragons are sure to attack. Klarenden battled with this notion ever since the birth of his creation and now he has a chance. Using his magical boots to leap to the Dock Ward Klarenden Eltorchul looked behind him to see other mages also in mid-leap. The wind whipped his hair away from his focused eyes as he descended a rain of fire upon the white dragon below.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tales from Years End (Halls of Hilmer)

In the later days of this harrowing week Kelson Thorn Jardeth worked with many people in the Castle Ward but none with as much ardor and devotion as with the collection of nineteen buildings that made up what he called “The Iron Block.” Named after Hilmer Kormallis and his armory/ smithy which has become a sanctuary of sorts during these Times of Troubles.

The hours of training sessions, not to mention previous dragon events, have seasoned fifty three of the Iron Block's commoners into capable warriors; and six into adepts who are trained to wear armor crafted Hilmer.

So when the Sea Ward alarm sounded, every individual in the Iron Block moved with practiced efficiency to protecting the homestead and the lives it sheltered.
Kelson moved to his vantage and waited as several uneasy minutes passed adding to the tension that came with impending attacks. Sounds of movement- horses galloping through the streets, heading north Kelson observes- but no great calamity befalls the city as far as he can tell.

An hour passes and Kelson takes first watch allowing everyone else to rest. The weather was becoming restless as if the seasons themselves fought on Waterdeep Mountain. Messages filtered in throughout the night; one said that at least a dozen 'icebergs' from the sea beached themselves, stood up and began to assail the Sea Ward Wall. And that the Waterdeep Ironclad Peacemaker departed Deepwater Harbor.

Kelson Jardeth looked out at Castle Waterdeep and thought of the swearing in to the Knights of the Firelance later today; a honor to serve the city and maintain his family’s name in the council of leadership. Then a quick shadow fell across one of the castle spires spurring Kelson into action. He leapt fearlessly out the window grabbing the eaves allowing him to spring up onto the roof. He looked to the sky at an angle to the moon light and…  there!

A cold fog had settled in the Castle Ward but Kelson could see a Wyvern with two giant snakes- one in each of its clawed feet. Kelson spotted where the wyvern intended to land so he sprung to his feet and ran over the easy peaks and patios atop the Iron Block.
He met the wyvern with a thunderous slash of his bastard sword smashing its brains in two. The two giant snakes recovered quickly and slithered around Kelson cutting off his escape. They writhed and lunged with their hoods opened menacingly, forked tongues darting in and out.

Kelson dropped his sword, tumbled and as he did he drew his own peacemaker and shot each giant snake in the head.

“It’s going to be a long night my friend.” Hilmer said after coming out to investigate the gunfire.

“You say ture,” Kelson answered reloading and then re holstering  “come let us leave the streets, we must send a message to the High Palaver about what has happened here.” 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Lion, the Witch, and the Gunslinger

Jarred Mallred, Grand Magician and Master of Blackspire Gap sat easy in the small company of the League devoted to the Mistress of theNight. He had just brokered a deal that would guarantee his favor to Lilith and elevation in the League. The other three hopefuls… well, he doubted they knew Lilith’s heart’s desire to make any real threat to his ostentatious offering.

To Jarred’s right sat a cultured and refined elf. Lythia Elaewyn talked down to everyone who was not an arcanist of some kind preferring to take on educated peers and collogues. She was said to be a conjurer, Jarred thought appraisingly looking at her; more likely she was an assassin.

To Mallred’s left rested an old bastard who introduced himself coarsely to Jarred as ‘Tar the White’ and rudely refused any assistance in entering Blackspire Gap or sitting down at the table. Presently he looked dead, or asleep Jarred could not tell.

Finally situated across from Sai Mallred was Korornous, obviously a fire mage of some worth. He sat menacingly, staring Jarred with searing blood-red eyes. Was he a Thayan Mallred suspected; they were a treacherous lot, occupied of political and physiological warfare, and were therefore not to be trusted.

As was custom in palavers such as these; Jarred Mallred serving as host would have the benefit of presenting his offering to the Mistress of the Night last; he would have the advantage of raising his tithe to surpass his rivals should the need arise. Jarred was confident his would buy him the favor of many gods should that be required.

Tar ‘the White’ arose nosily from his chair, his old bones cracked audibly. He reached into his belt and presently placed a ring upon the table. The ring was master worked, a relic; the old bastard boasted, but was just an artful setting for the terrible black magic gemstone set within.

The discourse of the old man drowned in Mallred’s ears as he noticed a pleasant calm had settled on the grounds of Blackspire Gap.

Korornous then began his words of devotion to the Lilith and the Conclave, a slight in etiquette Jarred noticed, Lilith would look down on him is distain for observing others in her praises. Jarred hoped she would kill him outright than suffer another outrage. Drawing his speech to a close the mage presented black marble figurine. The figurine was exquisite and horrifying in is countenance as Korornous announced to the world the Aspect of Loss.  

The surprise of the offering hit Mallred like a judgment. This may pose a worthy challenge to him; it definitely compensates for Korornous’ breach in etiquette Jarred surmised.

Lythia Elaewyn, the elven highborn, stood solemnly and began her prayers in a language foreign to Jarred. This unnerved him to his utter limit. Curses! What seemed assured has now slipped into the realm of only probable. Jarred sat uneasily as she disrobed and revealed her gruesome pregnancy; sub dermal horns or were they claws? Jarred thought, protruded from her belly; it writhed and moved just as newborn anxious to be born into this world.
What was the Elf’s offering? Damn her! Jarred Mallred composed himself and let the tension build. He stood. Outside he imagined Lilith’s black wings encircling his tower; the thought aroused him deeply- as thoughts of her constantly did.

Without preamble Jarred produced the three urns he acquired from the drow; one at a time he placed them on the table, each made a sound like a gunshot when contact with the table was made. It gave the ceremony a finality that was not evident before. Events were reaching a crescendo.

“Lilith! Mistress of Night, Lady of Lust and Shadows… for you my dear… three Aspects…” Jarred began. Thunder sounded and a sudden cold stole the room. “She is coming! All will cower before her BEAUTY!!!”

“Lord Mallred!” Finnegan Blackcross interrupted barging into the inner sanctum during Mallred’s most pivotal of moments. “Blackspire Gap is under attack...

Whatever Blackcross said next was lost in the din of magical energies, gunfire, and blood chocked death screams as the goddess arrived to claim Mallred's generous offering. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Port of Shadows 2

I have taken it upon myself to put to parchment the known history of this loathsome den of villains. Deneir aid me in my quest. When first I considered the nature of the task, I mistakenly lulled myself into believing that uncovering and transcribing the lore of Skullport would be a mundane tusk. How does one port differ greatly from another?

It is with great humility that I admit I was gravely mistaken. The Port of Shadow is unlike any port above or below the surface of Abeir-Toril. Not surprisingly, it is much like the Underhalls that surround it: difficult to quantify, enigmatic, dangerous and yet alluring, all at the same time. The whole attempt would have been fruitless had I not encountered Sangalor of the Secrets, a generous and fair-minded person whose knowledge of Skullport is only matched by his devotion to Oghma the Binder. Sungalor, if you are reading this, I thank you for the guidance and insight. May the Binder keep you safe.
Alphraxis of Deneir

Skullport, or the Port of Shadow to the learned and informed, is a dismal and dangerous domain populated by the vilest beings the Realms Below has to offer. Mercenaries gather to sell their swords and lives to the highest bidder; Noble drow move about shading their intrigues and machinations from the various luminescent fungi, and slaves that go up on the auction blocks to feed the demand for labor. Slavers, smugglers, mercenaries, and black-market merchants operate openly in Skullport. In fact, the economy of the Port of Shadow is dependent upon the despicable practice of buying and selling sentient creatures.

The enigmatic Skulls rule and maintain order in the city. These floating disembodied skulls wander about Skullport, which takes its name from their presence, tending to aims only they can fathom and enforcing their sometimes whimsical and often harsh will through the use of cryptic magical abilities.

But so long as the actions of a being do not inhibit trade, cause mass destruction, or attempt to wrest control of the Port from the Skulls, his or her actions are ignored by the Skulls and largely overlooked by the populace of the city.

Skullport is also a haven for underworld and illicit activities such as: Smuggling, piracy and pirates, drug-running and alchemists who concoct drugs and poison all thrive and dwell here. Most folk in Skullport are likely hiding from or trying to avoid the forces of the law of the surface world or are poor folk trapped in this city of darkness because of personal misfortune, they lack the resources to rejoin the surface realms, or sometimes it is just the misfortune of being born here.

The Port of Shadows can be broken down into four somewhat distinct regions and three vertical elevations (The Crown, The Venter, and The Dredge), although the exact divisions between wards are a constant source of conflict. The Sargauth creates a series of dark canals which are the thoroughfares traversed used by individuals mostly on gondolas each piloted by a black-skulled skeleton. Boardwalks and bridges join many major wards, but specific locations may only be accessible by a skeleton’s gondola.

The generally accepted wards of Skullport are:

Skull Island. This is the island surrounded by the River Sargauth (and a nearby enclave) at the south end of the Murkspan Bridge. The most prominent feature of the island is the tower of black basalt sculpted from a massive stalactite called the Tower of Seven Woes. Before the ruination of the sea caves, slaves are were kept here before being shipped to points unknown; however now House Drowdeen from Ched Nasad have since taken control of the island and all its riches. Skull Island has only one level.

The Port. This is the first leg of the main cavern of Skullport just north of Skull Island across the Murkspan Bridge. It is by far the loudest and most rowdy of the wards; considering the number of festhalls located here. The ceiling here rises to a height of nearly 100 feet and is dominated by the complex weave of catwalks and wooden palisades overhead. Far overhead hangs a forest of stalactites. It also contains many warehouses, businesses dependent on the canals, importers, and exporters. It is generally a ward of lower-class businesses and residences. This does not however exclude it from conflict. Religious factions vie for dominance in the Port: remnants of the Church of Loviatar occupy The Venter elevation, and Umberlee dominating The Dredge elevation both using local gangs to fight minor skirmishes while priests and clerics work their vile ceremonies in darkness. 

The Trade Lanes. This is the area to the east of the Port ward. Long corridors of canals runs east from the Port in this long cavern. Its northern and southern walls are fairly straight. It features one of the broadest canals in Skullport and harbors the bulk of the trades and services to be found in the Port of Shadow. Anything and everything is for sale here from scrolls, to salvaged goods, and poisons. The ceiling gradually rises from about 100 feet to 300 as it angles upward to the Heart. Anyone who peers upward can see the waterclock high overhead between the Dredge and Venter Trade Lanes. The Trade Lanes has three levels that often bring factions into conflict: the Melairkyn have come to reclaim the Venter with sudden shrewdness; The Zhentarium in the Crown; and the Iron Ring slavers in the Dredge.

The Heart: The Heart is the easternmost portion of the main cavern where it opens out from the Trade Lanes and rounds off naturally at the easternmost wall. The main cavern rises highest in the Heart and holds numerous residences and some businesses. It is the highest-class area in Skullport, a distinction of dubious relevance considering the low-class nature of the entire city.

The bulk of the Skulker population makes their homes here among the stone columns and stalactites of the cave. Most of the more unusual races make their homes here as well. The ceiling of the cavern in this ward is the highest point in Skullport, and some structures twine the stalactites some 300 feet above the main cavern floor, including the spider-shaped drow refuge of House Auvryndar.

The Heart ward has three levels like the Trade Lanes, but because of the higher ceiling in the Heart, the upper levels of the Heart are higher in elevation than the upper level of the Trade Lanes. It is in these levels where the Red-Mages of Thay, pious elementalists, and numerous thieves guilds struggle for control over this upper-class ward.