All of the group had interest in finding Snail, the sewer entrepreneur that had both employed some of Kit's friends and may have been Trey's (Getha's nephew) point of contact to attempt to flee the city. However, that next day, the Violettes had another task they needed to do, and let the Origamis and the Del Mers they could meet them tomorrow.
The Violettes were visited early in the morning by a member of the city Watch, following up on their report of a death threat pinned to their door the previous evening. After calling Evelyn down from her morning beauty treatments to listen, the young man told Steven and his sister that the note was marked with dragon's blood. Also, similar threats had been delivered (at other, earlier times) to other homes in the area, and the homes had been burgled, the inhabitants robbed, or the inhabitants themselves attacked. The guard assured them they would patrol by their home regularly to thwart attacks, and Steven felt a bit smug that he had gotten some house guards already.
After the guard had left, the siblings went to see Mother, who, while vaguely knew all of the families affected, couldn't think who she'd offended recently that would want to kill her. (And they certainly didn't have much to rob.)
Steven double-checked with his father, and discovered that yes, for once, this was true. Mother really DIDN'T have any current death-threats. Red letter day in the Violette household.
However, she DID know the location of one of the few other dragons in the city, who might keep closer tabs on her kin. It’s possible she might be able to lead them to the source of the dragon’s blood used on the death-threat. The song dragon Raxmathlinda – known as Rel to most, ran a curiosity and pawn shop in the Dock Ward. Song dragons being social sorts, perhaps she might know who, if anyone might have a grudge. Or there was also the more annoying possibility that the dragon’s blood had been from a dead dragon, in which case tracking it would be very difficult indeed.
The Violettes went to Raxmathlinda’s pawn shop, located down a twisty little alley in a relatively quiet but poor area of the Dock Ward. There was a faint light inside the shop, and above the door was the usual sign for a pawn shop, hands exchanging coins for a knife. But Princess, Evelyn’s familiar, noted that the knife was stained with tacky red (faintly magical) blood on its edge. Concerned, they went in, but Raxmathlinda was neither being robbed nor had been attacked, as her shop was in perfect order. Like most song dragons, she spent most of her time in her alternate form, in her case, that of a half-elf woman.
She was pleased to see the Violettes, saying the last time she’d seen them they’d been, “knee high to a knee.” Raxmathlinda listened to what brought them there with consternation. She told them the only thing the various families had in common was a dragon’s hoard. About three hundred years ago, a powerful blue dragon called Marsekavris had been slain, and these families had end up transporting his hoard back to the city and/or processing the treasure for the adventurers in question, and had been paid in dragon treasure. The other thing that was similar about the families was that all of them were fallen on harder times, like the Violette family, and might have clung to parts of that hoard when their fortunes turned. Essentially, they might have been more vulnerable to having the parts of the hoard stolen. Of all the families that had parts of the hoard, only the Markovian family and the Violettes had yet to be hit. The Markovians had ended up with dragonscale armor.
Evelyn recognized the name, as they had a younger son near her age that liked her, and they had fabulous garden parties. They wanted to go visit them and warn them post-haste. On their trip home, they were attacked by thieves wielding slings and red-stained daggers. to very painful effect Steven sliced two in half, Evelyn froze a couple, briefly and even Princess mauled some of them. Two were killed, and two ran. Evelyn ran after them, and was nearly brought down, but Steven managed to come to her rescue and injure a third enough so the fourth ran away. The thieves had slit-pupiled eyes and had cursed them in Draconic. On their chests, they bore the sigils of Marsekavris. In their belt pouches, aside from daggers and slings, they also bore red whetstones. Steven alerted the Guard to the dead and turned over the injured man to them. Then they quickly went to the temple of Mystra to ask their advice.
The priests healed Steven as the Violettes laid out their story. The priests were concerned that someone might be trying to raise power for Marsekavris in the beginnings of a cult. The Violettes were warned to be cautious. Later, they returned to Raxmathlinda's shop to tell her what had happened, and she said that the red whetstones were actually clots of Marsekavris' blood, and could be used to taint someone into being under his sway.
A little disturbed, they went home to talk to Mother, asking her about anything she might have gotten from a horde. It seemed that Mother had several old scrolls of very ancient spells, rare and valuable, from such a place. Knowing what Marsekavris (or his cult) were after, Evelyn and Steven decided to go and warn the Markovians, in case they too were in danger.
They spoke to Lady Markovian first, and she seemed honestly appalled that anyone would go after her family. Her son, the young Lord Markovian, was in training at the temple of Helm; perhaps he could seek aid from them. Shortly thereafter, Lord Markovian arrived, arrayed in splendid blue dragonscale armor. When the Violettes repeated their story, he seemed gravely concerned. But when Evelyn silently cast Learn Heritage on him, as she'd done for his mother, found him to be tainted with Marsekavris' bloodline. Lord Markovian speculated what the Violettes might have to warrent such attention from a nasty cult, but Evelyn played dumb. Markovian suggested he escort them home for their safety, claiming that if anyone came after the both of them, they would be better served with having more people in a group. No believing him, Evelyn suggested he put his armor in the vaults of the temple of Helm, for certainly there could be no safer place in the Realms. He agreed readily enough, but from his body language, Evelyn knew he didn't intend to do anything of the sort.
After extracting themselves from a potentially dangerous situation, both parties lying outrageously, the Violettes returned to the temple of Mystra bearing the news of Lord Markovian's taint. Profoundly disturbed, the priest said he'd get together a group at once to go to their home and try to untangle Marsekavris' taint from Markovian's spirit.
Hedging his bets, Steven dropped off at the Broken Sword and hired three more guards to protect their parents. The Armsmaster got them three, Relvak (a huge half-orc woman), Vellos (a dwarf with a large axe), and Thees (a swashbuckling human man). They returned home, found the door kicked in, and their guards dead on the floor and stairs, with screaming echoing from above. Everyone ran upstairs, and found Lord Markavian menacing their parents, a ghostly form of a dragon about his shoulders. Father was defending Mother with a sword, but it was clear it wouldn't be long before he was cut down. The hired guards gave Steven a look, "Them or him?" "Protect them" he said, and they quickly got between Markovian and the elder Violettes. Markovian turned to engage Steven and dealt him a wicked blow, as the ghostly dragon turned and breathed out lightning on the hired guards, scorching them badly. Evelyn, out of spells for the day, called to her mother for help. Mother yelled at her to get into her jewel case, where, in the bottom, was a potion and three wands. Following Mother's directions, Evelyn used a wand of magic missiles on the ghostly dragon as Steven engaged Markovian to his death. With Markovian dead, the ghostly dragon dissapated.
Not long after, the priests of Mystra reappeared, chagrinned that they hadn't realized Marsekavris had driven Markovian to act so soon. They would take charge of Markovian's remains to see if any hint of Marsekavris' spirit lingered. As well they would take the armor and purify it. Once they had finished studying it, however, it would pass to Steven.
(Let it be known that the Violettes' long-suffering maid, Molly, who had been tasked with getting the blood out of Evelyn's robes from the first attack, came walking by at this point, looked in the master bedroom, saw the blood, and sighed. Then kept walking.)
The next day, Lady Markovian dropped off a chest which apparently contained her son's burgening horde. After returning the stolen item, there were still quite a few things that belonged to no one in particular, and she didn't want the in the house. There were quite a few pieces of platinum, a lot of fine jewelry, a curious diadem that allowed one to cast animate tattoo several times a day, and a dress with heavy silver thread that doubled as light armor. Steven took the coins. Evelyn took the rest. (Or, rather, Steven took charge of the coins for Evelyn's allowance.)
Now, during that same day, having got the message that the Violettes were to meet them on the morrow, the Origamis and the Del Mers decided to work on another loose thread of the Wands Higharvestide attack - the link to the Fruit of the Vine winery, who supplied the mead for the Wands' party.
The group rose at an early hour, Garden and Charissa never having gotten sleep, William and Shandri having gotten very little. The winery was a little outside the city proper, so the group took a small hike to the walled and fortified vineyard. Though Waterdeep had been under siege many times in the past, the winery had survived by not being very strategically placed, not having much terribly portable wealth, and by having good defenders. Generally most would-be conquering armies would say, “We’ll get you once we get Waterdeep.” Through judicious bribery and non-aggression, the vineyard managed to survive.
The group showed up at the gates, and Garden provided the reason for their visit – he was in charge of obtaining drink for a clan party. Charissa was of the clan, William was Garden’s “student of culture,” and Shandri was here to check for purity. (Garden sold William’s presence by explaining things slowly and loudly with simple words. William rolled his eyes and carried on with his own observations.) Brewmaster Kel was happy to show the group around briefly before starting on a tasting. William noted that what little he could see of the fields were under a plant growth spell to keep them healthy and fruitful.
The Brewmaster charged them a small fee for the tasting, and in order to maintain their cover, Garden found himself saddled with a 250gp bill for wine and mead (with a special bottle for the Guildmaster). Wincing internally, Garden knew he could get the clan to cover it, but they’d take it out of his shop’s profits for the presumption.
But now, as a contracted customer, Garden was entitled to a full tour of the facilities. The group toured the wine vats and storerooms, and listened the Brewmaster’s lectures until they got to the apiary and mead room. (The bees themselves were behind enchanted glass.) The Brewmaster was suddenly called away to deal with another customer, and the group set to exploring.
The mead room had an earthen floor (for the bees’ comfort or somesuch), and one area of it was rather wet. The area right below a rack of mead that had the same oddly patinaed gold seals that they had seen at the Wands’ party, the bottles tainted with amber oozes. And the group poked at the earth, four oozes bubbled up from the ground and advanced. Startled, the party reacted quickly. Charissa shot one, Shandri tried to hit one with her warhammer, William opened what he thought was a supply closet to look for something to capture them with, and Garden took off out the door, yelling about fire (to bring other employees). Charissa and Shandri were able to hurt the things (though potentially deadly, they weren’t terribly hard to hit). Garden’s yells brought a drunken response of “Yeah, firewater!” from a thoroughly soused dwarf half-insensible behind a brewing vat. Garden continued running and yelling for someone who was not drunk.
Poor William, however, found himself under attack. A glassy-looking dark purple warhammer inscribed with vines flew out of the closet under its own power and took a swing at him. Quite surprised, William yelped or swore or made a manly shout (accounts differ), and ducked. The hammer then flew towards Charissa. William was going to grab something to contain the ooze (a bucket, perhaps). Charissa and Shandri continued with their Jell-O wrestling (or ooze fighting, one of the two), though Charissa tried to grab the hammer as the more dangerous threat.
Garden finally found some sober winery employees and led them back to the mead room. By that time, Charissa had briefly gotten ahold of the hammer, Shandri had most of the oozes squashed, and William had scooped one up in a bottle. The hammer finally squirmed out of Charissa’s grasp and flew towards Garden, winging Shandri on the way. Who promptly started giggling like that time she and William had been imprudent at a party. The hammer… had gotten her hammered.
One of the employees saw the hammer, squinted at it, looked surprised, and shouted, “Closing time!” The hammer fell quiescent.
In the ensuing hullaballo, William slipped the bottled ooze into Charissa’s coat, and it was discovered there was a trap door in the closet. The vineyard manager, one Sorée Thann, was rather beside himself in embarrassment. He called for a wand from his office, by which he rendered Shandri sober. (The drunk dwarf, apparently one Granite Alehearth, a buyer of their wares, took a few extra applications.) A bit of herbal powder took care with the attendant hangovers.
Upon seeing the hammer, Sorée said it was something out of legend, belonging to an older order called the Knights of the Vine. But they went extinct over a century ago. (Though their stories were still popular, hence why one of the vineyard workers knew the most common command words to the hammer.)
The trapdoor in the closet led to a carved stone passageway lit with magical torches. Uneasy at the thought of oozes coming up through his floor from this underground chamber, Sorée let the party know he’d be willing to forgive Garden’s account balance if they’d help get to the bottom of this (literally). Garden said he’d send a bill, Sorée turned a few interesting colors, and the group descended down a ladder to the passageway. They found a beautifully carved door of the same grape cluster motif as on the hammer. Inscribed upon the door were the words “The Knights of the Vine.”
Instead of having a handle or a keyhole, there was a goblet carved into the door. Calling up the sadder, the group got a bottle of wine and poured it into the goblet. The goblet drank itself dry and opened. It revealed a tomb with three sarcophagi with bas relief lids, one cracked down the middle. Another door was across the room. A brazier burned in one corner, and in the other, a huge bowl was full of leaping gobs of amber oozes that were jumping up to a crack on the ceiling and back down like a lava lamp (corresponding to where they were coming up through the floor upstairs). A close examination showed containment and stasis spells had been on the bowl, but had been sabotaged. Ruthlessly the group called up for vinegar and destroyed the little menaces.
Left with the sarcophagi and a door, they checked the sarcophagi first. Two were sealed and the broken one was not. Moving the broken lid, they found a desiccated corpse dressed in purple-dyed leather-and-chain armor, his hands crossed over his chest, his fingers broken (probably from having his hammer taken). None of the tombs had magic on them.
Then they checked the door, similar to the outer one, but this one say “In Vino Veritas.” They needed a great deal more wine to open it, but when it did, it opened onto a bustling tavern. Blinking and rubbing their eyes, the group looked again. Yup. Tavern.
Near the bar was a table at which sat three people in purple armor, smiling and waving at the group to join them. William realized this was a powerful, elaborate illusion of some type. Under the magic the room was bare save for the table, chairs, three chests under the chairs, and the three goblets at the table. With great caution the group came in.
The three revelers introduced themselves as the last members of the Knights of the Vine, laid to rest in this very tomb. They said they’d been dead a good long while. They were glad someone had stopped the freed oozes, though they couldn’t tell the group who had raided their graves. They explained a bit about their order, how they guarded vineyards and instructed people in social rites with intoxicating beverages. They also made sure drinks and how to make them weren’t forgotten, and that people didn’t make drunken fools of themselves.
They asked if the group would like to pick up where they left off. One Knight explained the magical hammer’s heads - that one side, marked with a bottle, made people drunk, and the other, marked with bread, made people sober.
To test the Knights-apparent, they called for a bottle from the barkeep and filled up the goblets. Garden drank, got a bit hammered, and one knight asked him to open a door to the locked wine room. Charissa also drank, started to giggle, and was asked to help distill a spirit. Shandri had to take two drinks to be impaired, but was asked to mix a complex beverage. Even at a disadvantage, all three succeeded. William watched avidly and made copious notes.
With smiles, the Knights finally vanished, and the three chest opened. Inside were old platinum coins, marked with grain on one side and grapes on the others, many potions, books on distilling, drink recipes, a set of “skeletons keys,” and a great many peculiar potions. (Attached is a file on what they found in the books on the Knights of the Vine, as well as the commands for the hammer the group figured out thus far.)
The Knights of the Vine
The book on various drink preparations you discovered in the Tomb of the Vine had more than just libation concoctions in it. Indeed, after a more careful perusal, you notice that the book has been expanded several times, pages inserted as the book has grown. It looks like the drinks were actually added onto the core book. The original book was an explanation of the Knights of the Vine, detailing their origins, history, duties, notable members, and other unusual facts.
It’s clearly an old book, and actually looks like it was at one point owned by someone named Wiggan, who didn’t care for the Knights at all. There are snide commentaries on many of the margins, pointing out displeasure at some point of the Knights’ information. It seems the book later fell back into the hands of a Knight of Vine with a good sense of humor, one Sir Kels, because next to these snide comments are comments on the comments.
Summary of the contents:
The Knights of the Vine arose as an independent order often attached to temples of Liira and Sharess (the goddesses of joy and pleasure respectively), though it is not a religious order, per se. As civilization expanded, one of the founders noted that various forms of alcohol were being used at every social occasion, from simple gossip to weddings to treaties between warring countries. This founder, Thalia Sheaf, was seized by the importance of drink in society and founded the Knights to aid in its use, creation, transport, and promotion.
The motto of the Knights is, “In Vino Veritas.” Or, “In Wine There Is Truth.”
At various times the Knights provided a vast number of functions. They guarded vineyards and grain fields, warded distilleries, protected caravans of alcohol on their way to market, and watched over taverns and festhalls to prevent theft. They often attached themselves to taverns, inns, and festhalls so that no one would misuse social lubrication and go from genial to obnoxious or violent. (The snide commentator Wiggan points out the Knights of the Vine were colloquially known as the “Order of the Bouncers Immaculate” in some areas because of this practice. Sir Kels says, “Ah, but we were never more welcome in a town. Certainly more than you, oh Dry One!”)
One of the ways the Knights combated the violently drunk was with their magical hammers or some unique spells. They had a spell that could render a man sober in a breath, and another that could alleviate the effects of a hangover. For those two spells, the Knights were much sought after as peacekeepers during large festivals. Their magical hammers could either give someone struck by it the effects of drunkenness (making them easier to subdue) or sober them (perhaps making them think twice about pressing their attack). These hammers were known as “The Grapes of Wrath.”
The Knights of the Vine also collected drinking songs (an extensive selection is at the back of the book) and performed them. They collected drinks as well: how to create them from scratch, mix certain libations, seeds of various grapes and grains, wood for containers and glasses for bottles, the works. The Knights collected ceremonies around drink, from various tavern drinking games to the strict ceremonies of high nobility to the ancient practices of noble families. They have listed dozens, if not hundreds, of ceremonies listed.
There is also a small section in the book about various dangers associated with drink – from warnings about the small amount of spider poison present in drow beverages to the terrible threat from amber oozes to which drinks are to never be served to certain races/profession for various reasons.
(Wiggan comments here that, “No wonder your Order is dying out; you are trying to do seventeen things at once! Social butterflies.” Sir Kels says, “But at least we are never bored.”)
It’s clear from the various duties described that most Knights of the Vine were not fighters. The Knights were most often bards, with rogues coming a close second. Other classes could easily fit into the Order, but despite their guarding duties, they were not primarily a martial order. They were expected to be socially adept, skilled in some aspect of the libatious arts (making, drinking, gaming, serving, ceremonies), and able to hold their liquor. They were apparently a fun-loving order that had a great many races in their ranks. Because it was not specifically a religious order, many people held Knighthood in the Order of the Vine as well as being a paladin of this or an owner of that.
The Order apparently died out during a period of several wars in quick succession, which left little time for the various Knights to go about their duties or train new ones as the old ones fell. The last Knights were buried in a fine tomb, and a fragment of their spirits left in an illusion spell to hopefully revive the order some day.
Hammer, "The Grapes of Wrath" is +1 warhammer. When you tried the commands below (w/the help of your workshop buddies), this is what you get. You aren't sure yet how many uses per day these things work.
First Round’s on me = activation
Closing time = deactivation
Next round’s on me = All allies within 30 ft gain a +1 to AC, but the weapon loses its +1 bonus (though is still counted as magical) for 5 rounds
Round on the house = A bless effect occurs centered on the hammer, but the weapon loses its +1 bonus (though is still counts as magical) for 5 rounds
Tilt one back/Bottoms up = Detects poison with 30 ft. The grape engraving on the shaft turns green.
Cheers = Sings a drinking song with a +5 bonus to Perform (vocal) checks. It takes requests.
Last call = Activates a deathwatch spell for 5 rounds.
Happy hour = After you've had a drink, you gain a +2 bonus to Diplomacy checks for an hour, as you become more sociable.
You've had enough/I'm cutting you off = User can cast a bane spell, but the weapon loses its +1 bonus (though still counts a magical), spell lasts 5 rounds.
I'll call you a cab (or, "I'll see you home") = A spectral hand appears and guides one touched with the hammer to their home.
Put it on my tab = Point the hammer at an ally and say this command and it flies to an ally's hand.
(The name of any type of alcoholic beverage) = If the beverage is known to the hammer, the way for making it and serving it appears on the side of the hammer, and an ephemeral taste appears in a small cup. It's not real alcohol and it won't get you drunk, but it does let the user share the flavors of certain beverages (for edification or personal amusement, depending on their nature).
BAR FIGHT! – This allows the wielder to rage for five rounds.
Tap the Keg – This allows the wielder a +2 to sunder attempts
Let’s Take This Outside – This activates the spiritual weapon/dancing weapon quality that the group noted on their first encounter with the hammer.
Do you come here often? (or any other cheesy pick-up line) – After you have had a drink, this gives the drinker a +2 on Bluff checks for an hour.