Spire's Shadow

The Littlest Vampire

“When asked about a coffin, Sumar and Salsan pointed to a shattered glass casement and told of a ‘beast girl’ who broke free of it and stalked off into the cave. They were obviously frightened of her and refused to follow after her. The heroes thanked them and armed them with the weapons of their fallen captors, hopeful that they would be able to keep their new found freedom. Sumar proclaimed that he would find the Ennin slavers who had captured him and destroy them. Salsan was more interested in finding Slave City, an underground refuge for escaped slaves.

“After sending Sumar and Salsan on their way, the party delved deeper into the cave. Suddenly, they found themselves standing on a beach in the sunshine with a small collection of buildings to their right and the Arrowhead, Linech’s ship, to their left. Farther down the beach, a little girl with raven hair played with a small dog. Before the confused adventurers could regain their wits, the scene changed again. Now it was night, the ship was gone, the buildings aflame, and the little girl stood before them holding an ornate pocket watch in her hands. Staring at the heroes, she cried, ‘Why? Why?!’

“Estin and Qumbarich were able to free themselves from the illusion to see what was really happening. Before them in the cave stood the little girl with the watch, but she was clearly undead – pale skin, red eyes, sharp fangs… Qumbarich noticed that Leovin and Bingle were trying to engage the creature in conversation and shouted a warning. However, the warning proved to be unnecessary. Leovin’s instincts told him something was wrong, and he fired a sling bullet at the nascent vampire.

“The fierce battle raged for nearly an hour, neither side gaining the upper hand. Bingle was the only member of the party to lose any blood to the vampire’s fangs because Qumbarich was able to wrestle her to the ground. However, most of the heroes’ weapons were useless against the hellspawn. Eventually, they managed to pour enough holy water and curatives down the creature’s throat to cause it to evaporate into black vapor. It reconstituted in the broken glass coffin, and Qumbarich staked it in place with a piece of a nearby crate.

“Bingle took the watch for later study, but Seanus demanded its return as property of Linech. The adventurers agreed to part with it, but only after Bingle used an illusion to make it seem as though the watch was alive. It demanded to be set free and let loose a chilling laugh, but Seanus just raised an eyebrow in disbelief. What Bingle told no one else was that he had only created the demand, not the laughter.

“One mission complete, the heroes returned to Linech. He paid them their promised reward, but Estin felt that he was more happy to see his watch than the body of his daughter, despite his earlier tantrum. She chose to say nothing though, as all had turned out well in the end. Or so she thought anyway…”

Of Vampires and Gangsters

“Quillong, for that was the name of the triton, turned out to be a font of information for our heroes. He shared that the sahuagin, his people’s ancient enemies, were far from their territorial waters. He had never known them to stray so close to land except when called by the Horn of Blood. The sahuagin were bound to serve the masters of this ancient artifact, a coven of vampires known as the Covenant of Blood. Needless to say, news that vampires might be behind recent events concerned the party greatly.

“After saying goodbye to Quillong, the exhausted adventurers returned to shore. They had been so badly trounced by the crab that it took four days for them to fully recover their strength. Estin carefully tended to Qumbarich and Bingle, assuring their recovery. During this time, they found that the figures in purple and gold who had escaped the shipwreck were probably the Hussar, a warrior cult of Unnah, Goddess of Blades. However, they were unable to discover anything else about these warriors.”

“They didn’t rescue the goddess?”

“No, that’s a different tale, I’m afraid.

“On Leovin’s insistence, the group returned to Linech to ask for more potions of water breathing. Not only was he unwilling to give them any supplies, he became quite perturbed, almost violent when they had nothing to report other than the possible identity of the group who had sunk his ship. He yelled that he would accept nothing less than the return of his daughter, then threw them out.

“Leovin had noticed a cave near the water’s surface during the party’s goodbyes with Quillong, and he was able to direct Seanus back to it in the other halfling’s rowboat. Seanus again stayed with the group’s supplies in the boat (though Qumbarich’s prize shark had been eaten by some other seabeast) while they waded deep into the cavern. Within, they took down a few guards who offered little resistance and saved two slaves, the Uraqi Sumar and the lizardman Salsan. Salsan told them that they had unwittingly crossed the Balacazars, the most powerful crime family in the city.”

Swag Wagon!

“Brightfather’s Day saw our heroes return to the ‘haunted’ house to complete their task (after taking some time to sell the previous day’s loot and resupply, of course). They descended to the cellar once again and made short work of the remaining goblins. Further exploration led them into a set of tunnels linking to Ghul’s Labyrinth and an encounter with foul undead. Estin’s holy power forced back the zombie menace, but the group decided to return to the surface until they could find a map of this place. Their first mission together a success, they went their separate ways, agreeing to meet for dinner in this very tavern.”

“What, here? Why would they want to eat at the Ghostly Minstrel?”

“In those days, the Minstrel was the place to be for adventurers. It opened onto Delver’s Square, and many deals were struck and parties hired in this very room. In fact, our heroes met that night with one of the most famous delvers of them all, Sheva Callister. She encouraged the young adventurers on their chosen path and urged them to pick a name for their band.”

“Did they help her find the hunger swords?”

“All in good time. You can’t rush a tale like this one. Now, where was I?

“Leovin, Bingle, and Cardo arrived at that dinner newly minted members of the Delver’s Guild. Estin, on the other hand, arrived with oil and grease spatters on her clothes and in her hair. She had been inspired by the beauty of an old clock that they had found in the goblin horde to fashion her own. And Qumbarich arrived somewhat drunk, having participated boisterously in the high holy day festivities of the Church of Lothian. Leovin hadn’t had any luck finding a map of the labyrinth, but Cardo and Estin had discovered from a merchant that there was supposed to be a cache of aethel stones somewhere in that area. Excited by this fresh bit of information, Leovin went directly back to the Delver’s Guild maproom after dinner, agreeing to meet the others in the morning at the Onyx Spider, a cheap inn where Estin and Bingle planned to stay. Cardo informed his companions that he had personal business that needed attending, but that he would meet them as soon as he was able.

“The next morning saw Qumbarich, Estin, and Bingle breaking fast at the Onyx Spider, a rough place if ever there was one, frequented by suspicious-looking folk of mostly human and dwarven stock. They were nearly caught up in a brawl that erupted around them, but the fight was calmed by a priest of Asche before too much damage could be done. Bingle and Estin introduced themselves to the priest, Mand Scheben, and Bingle asked if he knew of anything adventurous or magical that needed doing. After a moment’s thought, Mand invited Bingle and his friends to come to Castle Shard the next day for a meeting.

“Meanwhile, Leovin ran into an old acquaintance on the streets: another halfling thief by the name of Seanus. Seanus had heard that Leovin was back in town with an adventuring group and wanted to offer him first crack at a job Seanus’ new employer was offering. Leovin agreed to check it out and traveled to the Rivergate district to scout out the home of this employer, one Linech Cran. After seeing gnoll guards near one of the buildings in Cran’s burrow, Leovin scampered off to the Onyx Spider to report the job offer to the others.

“He found them in the midst of interrogating one of the dwarves who had started the bar fight earlier. Apparently, the devout dwarf’s Lothianite sensibilities had been offended by the approach of what he claimed to be ‘one of those damned undead-worshipping Forsaken.’ It was not difficult for Leovin to pull the party away from the unpleasant dwarf, and they discussed what their next move should be. Estin asked around about Linech Cran and soon found out that he was a minor ‘import/export facilitator.’ This made her and Qumbarich uncomfortable about accepting his job offer, but they agreed to accompany the others to hear him out.

“It turned out that Linech wanted someone to find out who had sunk the ship that was transporting his daughter Linele’s body for burial and to retrieve the girl’s coffin from the sea bed. His generous offer of payment for completion of the task and seeming disregard for business concerns when it came to his daughter’s rest convinced everyone in the group that this was a task worth doing. They were a bit unnerved, however, to discover from Seanus that Linech had a mysterious backer who had donated enough funds to employ them and buy a new ship. This stranger had also apparently donated a solid gold life-size statue of a warrior to the smuggler and was living in one of the houses in the burrow (the one that had been guarded by gnolls on Leovin’s first visit).

“After a fruitless afternoon of attempting to find out more about the circumstances of Linele’s death and the nature of the shipwreck, the party decided to wait until after their meeting at Castle Shard the following morning to pursue the matter further. Castle Shard has stood at the base of the Spire since time immemorial, at its heart a pulsing shard of pure magic that appears to be an enormous purple crystal. The Lords of Castle Shard at the time of our story were Lord Zavere, a reformed blackguard who hated and hunted the gangsters of the city, and Lady Rill, a fallen paladin who had devoted her life to the art of sorcery. The party’s meeting was with Lord Zavere and Mand Scheben, who had called them there to discuss nothing other than Linech Cran! The group did not know what to make of this staggering coincidence and decided to remain quiet about their involvement with Cran, only agreeing to report back on what purpose Cran had in hiring adventurers. Little did they know that their presence at Castle Shard was not coincidence at all, but had been engineered by a cruel and calculating mind.

“After retrieving Seanus from the Rivergate district, the party made their way to the Docks and asked around about the shipwreck. A fisherman pointed them to where the ship went down and mentioned that several figures in purple and gold robes had fled the burning wreckage. Seanus rowed the group out to the indicated point and gave each of them a potion of water breathing. Then they plunged into the dark, cold depths of the harbor, only the holy light of Teun revealing what lay around them. It was easy to find the ship they sought, but it was guarded by a sahuagin and its pet shark. They managed to slay the beasts, though Estin was stunned badly by one of Bingle’s spells. Qumbarich, who had single-handedly crushed the shark, decided to keep the bodies of their foes as trophies. A miscommunication over his intentions, perhaps due to the warping effect of water on sound, led the party to choose a name for their group: Team Swag Wagon!

“Another sahuagin was dispatched with ease when Bingle used the cold water surrounding him to supercharge a frost spell and froze the creature solid. However, there was no coffin in the wreck, only a few crates of the drug shivvel. Beginning to suspect that their employer had been less than honest with them, the party followed a trail of debris away from the ship to an underwater cave in the coastal cliffs. Inside, they met their match in a giant crab that nearly ripped Qumbarich and Bingle in twain. However, they were saved by a triton and his dolphin companion who had followed them after witnessing their battle with the sahuagin. After a few stabs from the triton’s trident, the crab scuttled back into the depths of the cave.”

An Heroic Tale

“Give us the tale of the Stormblades!”

“No, the Company of the Black Lantern’s fight against the dark elves!”

“I want to hear about the Jade Ravens!”

The storyteller’s gaze swept across his audience, lingering briefly on one then another of the eager young faces turned his way. With a small smile, he put aside his pipe and leaned forward. The crowd quieted in expectation as he began to speak.

“Those are all fine tales of great heroes, my friends. But I have a special story in mind for this evening, one you most likely have not heard before…

“In a way, it was Brightfather’s Day that brought them together. One day before the festivals began, a line of pilgrims, merchants, and would-be delvers stretched down the Emperor’s Road outside the South Gate. As bureaucracy turned its slow wheels and the line inched forward, a group of five near-strangers made awkward conversation below darkened skies.

“Bingle was a young and cheerful gnome with ideas of grandeur floating about in his head. His excitement about his new life in the city bubbled over into so fast a flow of words that he didn’t even notice that his new companions were largely ignoring the funny little fellow in old-fashioned wizard’s robes with the weasel riding on his head.

“Estin was an idealistic priestess of Teun, come to the stronghold of her faith to help the sisters there spread word of the blessings of technology. She had left a thriving family business as a blacksmith when she heard the call of her goddess, but she had never regretted that decision for a moment. The young woman with the bright red hair stood quietly by as the others began to get to know each other.

“Qumbarich was an oddity indeed, a dwarf raised by an elf in the ways of a human religion. The young monk had met Estin and Bingle while he searched the wide world for clues to his parentage and to the purpose of the magical amulet hanging from his neck. After years of fruitless searching, he was returning home to continue his search there (and to deliver an orphan he had ‘acquired’ in his travels to the Order of Dayra). The bald, tattooed dwarf listened eagerly to Bingle’s chatter, feelings of heroism welling up within him.

“Leovin was also returning home. The halfling did not speak much except to growl slightly when Bingle’s familiar got too close for comfort. However, I like to think that the gnome’s enthusiasm fascinated the streetwise thief. Certainly, he stuck close to the wizard as they neared the city gates.

“Cardo I leave until last because even today very little is known of this mysterious figure. He had traveled with Leovin, but whence he came before that he would not say. Rumor has it that there was a king’s ransom on his head in Dohrinthas and that Cardo was not even his real name. Regardless, the elf made no secret of the fact that he had come to Ptolus to make his fortune.

“As afternoon passed into evening, these five finally gained entrance to the city and were directed, upon their queries of adventure and gold, to Delver’s Square. The board there was full of bounties and quests, as usual, and a brief discussion led them to choose a minor haunting in a North Market neighborhood as their first job together. The promised reward of 75 gold Imperials was one of the smaller amounts on the board, but that led them to believe the task would be easy. They were mistaken.

“Investigating the ‘haunted’ house quickly revealed that there were no ghosts there (though Estin made an impressive display of holy power attempting to turn a white sheet). Instead, the place was infested with filthy goblins that had crawled up from the tunnels below the city through a hole in the cellar wall. The fight with the goblins was long and hard, and the party was forced to retreat from the cellar, Qumbarich unconscious and Estin and Bingle bleeding from several deep wounds. The people of the neighborhood did not take the news of goblins well, but Estin’s silver tongue soon calmed them.

“She took her companions to the temple of her goddess to rest and heal their wounds, even convincing the priestesses there to let them stay the night in the sanctuary surrounded by the creaking and grinding sounds of machinery as the night wore on. Their first day together had met with limited success, but the morrow was Brightfather’s Day, and it would signal the beginning of something greater than they could have imagined…”


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