Shandri, amongst other things, had formed the Urchin Postal Service (UPS). A life-long resident of Dock Ward, Shandri knew that there were hundreds of orphaned or semi-abandoned children that scraped out a living on Waterdeep’s streets. Having seen Evelyn’s success with Kip, and knowing that having a good messenger in a pinch could be crucial, she decided to do something about that. She bought many sets of solidly-made brown clothing (on the grounds that it showed stains less) and began to make contact with the various urchin gangs. In exchange for new clothing, learning how to swim at the temple of Istishia, and having the backing of herself (and sometimes her cousin), Shandri would find the urchins work that paid real money. For the duty of carrying verbal or written messages (or small packages) they could earn more money for better food, or a place to sleep safely, than they ever could begging or stealing.
(More on what the others were doing during the rest of Marponeth and the month of Uktar was in the previous post.)
But now Uktar was over and the Feast of the Moon descended over Waterdeep. It was a winter holiday where people gathered to tell stories and legends of their ancestors and the gods, to where it was hard to say where one ended and the other began. Theatrical productions, street theater, and miracle plays would abound. Tables would be set up in the streets, and people would tell tales all through the night as they feasted.
One of Charissa’s projects during her time off was to officially revive the Order of the Vine. She didn’t have the money to start a whole new guild from the ground up, but she could try to attach it to another guild. The Vintners, Brewers and Distillers Guild, to be precise. Calling on all other members of the Order (Garden, William and Shandri), Charissa said she’d gotten a trial run of sorts for the Order. Master Brewer Rumlar Stonehead had invited them to the Guild’s Feast of the Moon, adding to the festivities with the occasional song or drinking game, as well as keeping any mayhem down to a minimum. If the Order did well, Master Stonehead would consider passing a hat for them, perhaps even sponsoring them in the Guild –giving them steady jobs and the occasional help with larger projects, as well as being under Guild protection. But this time they’d work for free.
Calling that fair, as while Master Stonehead remembered the old Order, but didn’t know Charissa at all, the group put on new purple sashes and went to the party. (And if you’re wondering at this point where Evelyn and Steven are, Evelyn had sent a message that she had the dragon flu, and required Steven to stay home to aid in her recovery. At least that’s what she said.)
Several Guilds up and down the street had put up outdoor tables, and colorful bunting hung from many of the buildings. The new Order of the Vine did very well –Having used Grapes of Wrath’s stored knowledge to sing songs, play games, and test apprentices’ knowledge of obscure beverages, as well as rendering sober the occasional overly-belligerent guest.
Things were going so well, in fact, that the party only really looked up from their duties when they heard roaring and screaming coming from up the street. They saw a different Guild feast further up the block, and in the midst of the surging panicking crowd was a wemic, his mane aflame yet causing him no harm, laying about with his fists, bowling people aside, roaring, “Where are they? Where are they?” It was Sir Firemane, the wemic paladin of Nobanion the group had rescued from the sewers two months ago, and he was drunk as a lord, and fighting mad!
The Order of the Vine swung into action – Garden literally, by climbing up on a balcony and swinging down over the crowd on a length of bunting. Unfortunately Sir Firemane still had excellent aim, and battled Garden down. A single member of the Watch present, a Halfling armed with a truncheon and frightened expression, was also batted away, even as Charissa and Shandri moved in. Charissa tried to hit him with Grapes of Wrath sobering head to clear his mind, but missed, while Garden tried to stab him in the paw (the closest portion of anatomy to where he was, sprawled on the ground) with sleep poison. Alas it did not work. Shandri tried to give him the blessings of Istishia (i.e. create water) to quench the flames and his temper, while William tried to daze him with magic.
The group managed to keep his attention on them, taking a few bone-shaking blows for their trouble, and got the rest of the people out of the line of fire. Eventually one of Charissa’s blows connected and Sir Firemane was rendered instantly sober. He was appalled at his own behavior, and grateful for the group’s intervention before he did something entirely unforgiveable. He gave the Halfling Watch officer his entire belt pouch to pay for his fines (the poor lad nearly fainted again), and told the party he had to speak to them urgently and ask of them a favor.
William piped up with why had Sir Firemane’s hair been burning, and he said it was blessing of Nobanion to his paladins.
That dealt with, Sir Firemane said he’d spent two months looking for the pilgrims he’d been guiding from the Shaar – Darin Kellen, Havar Gethain, and Bescar Jorim; the fourth, Oram Vitch, had been the one who’d died of the same coral curse which had nearly killed Sir Firemane. The other three had gone missing while Firemane had been ill, and he’d frantically been trying to find them this entire time. He’d found but a single clue – he’d seen a carved ivory bracelet that Darin had made himself during the thousand-mile journey to Waterdeep decorating a carved candle in the store window of a shop. Unfortunately Rest’s Chandler, owned by Bertram Rest, was a very tiny shop, and Sir Fireman couldn’t even fit inside. He’d hoped to catch Bertram during the Feast, but he apparently hadn’t attended, and Sir Firemane had become rather despondent.
Nobanion’s faithful were known for their bravery in the face of fighting great evil, not for the subtlety or investigative prowess, and Sir Firemane had been beyond the end of his rope. He drank half a tavern in his despair and then… Well. The party had seen the rest. He felt awful about what he’d done once the party had brought him to his senses.
The party pressed him for details, saying perhaps they could help. Sir Firemane said all four men were from the Shaar, and Bescar was from a noble house. His family was actually very wealthy. All four were theology scholars, and had embarked upon the epic journey to Waterdeep to study the differences in regional worship of the gods as they traveled. They’d meant to catch a ship to Maztica to study the gods there and how the related to Faerûnian gods.
Sir Firemane gave the group good descriptions of the three men (as well as their scent descriptions… which was interesting but not particularly relevant to anyone in the party), and said he would be eternally grateful if the party could find them. Firemane was a good hunter and mighty warrior, but he couldn’t investigate in a city. He told the group he was staying in a warehouse in the Dock Ward, and would retreat there so he could easily be found when the group needed him… and so he could pray to Nobanion about how to atone for his unworthy actions.
The group went to the chandler the next day, finding it to be as small as advertised, barely the width of the spread of a human’s arms. (Shandri looked snooty and mildly disdainful in the presence of so much fire the entire time there, out of religious principle.) The proprietor Bertram was a cheerful, elderly man with a short beard, and he was happy to talk. The group had noticed the bracelet in question, sank into a beautifully carved candle as part of its decoration. Many candles in the shop, including that one, were somewhat magical. William realized Bertram was a Candle Caster, a Chandler Mage, someone who could put magic into candles the way others did into scrolls or potions, and have them release the magic when burned.
Asked about the bracelet, Bertram said it was sold to him in exchange for many plain candles, and described and named Darin, the bracelet’s owner, as the seller. Darin had been in the company of a woman, a redhead with blue eyes, very beautiful. Bertram made a few evocative gestures when describing the woman’s charms, and Charissa bit the bullet and supplied, “She had huge tracks of land?”
“A vast estate,” Bertram confirmed.
That description actually rang a bell with both Charissa and Shandri – there was a woman called Lilah who worked at the Busty Wench tavern that fitted who they were looking for. Shandri had seen her around the docks, and Liliah had once bought some knives from Charissa for self-protection. It was decided, due to William’s… sensitivity, that Charissa and Garden would go to the tavern to talk to Lilah.
(There was a second reason the Origamis didn’t want the de Mers around, other than the fact that the Busty Wench was one education William was better off not having and Shadri would have a harder time manufacturing an excuse to go there. Garden had been establishing a disguised persona in an Origami clan operated shop called The Marlith. Wearing a false beard, eyepatch, scar makeup, and the artfully stressed clothes of a working artisan, he didn’t want the others to know about “old Granther,” the aged gnome salesman of unusual but highly respectable weaponry. Charissa knew about the disguise, because Charissa had gone into that very shop to buy some shurikens (Tymora’s chosen weapon; she chooses to honor various gods by bearing their favored weapons) and had seen through the disguise. Alas, she’s his sister. Invoking her special talent of willful ignorance, she had asked no questions, and he’d told her no lies.)
So, that evening “old Granther” and Charissa went to the Busty Wench tavern. The sign was in relief, naturally.
Inside, they spotted Lilah attending to a customer on the far side of the room. Charissa went to talk to her, ostensibly about the knives she’s purchased, while Garden was showing the ladies some drawings of concealable weapons from the Marlith. Like war fans. And bodice daggers. The ladies found that delightful, particularly when he described the colors available. So he took their orders while they fussed over him (and at his height, with them bending over, Garden got many excellent views). Order-taking involved some close measurements, and ribald joking if there were enough string to measure, or steel to make a bodice dagger for some of the more bounteously blessed of the staff.
With that distraction going on, Charissa was able to talk with Liah, who said Darin had sold the bracelet at her mildly exasperated insistence, as he’d run up a bit of a bill. (Studying the rites of Sharess’ faithful can be costly.) And he’d not only owed her, but Carla. The candles had been for her, as that was one of her specialties, hot wax. The pilgrims had wanted to talk with her, and Lilah hadn’t seen them in days.
Thanking Lilah, Charissa went to talk to Carla, who was dressed in leather (and was, upon asking, a worshipper of Loviatar). Carla said her time was money, regardless of what was done with it. Charissa put down coins periodically throughout their conversation. Upon hearing what Charissa wanted to know, Carla said the young men in question had wanted to talk to her about her worship, and had simply paid for her to talk (which amused her greatly). After listening to what she’d said, they asked if she knew about any other obscure religions in the city.
Carla told them there was an old temple down below the Warrens (a subterranean Halfling and gnome community below Dock Ward), now called the Temple of the Darkening Dawn. Apparently it was an offshoot of Lathander’s worship. They’d all gone there on the Feast of the Moon.
Thanking Carla, and finally extracting her brother before he’d smothered, Charissa returned to the Ship’s Lantern inn (where the de Mers were waiting) and let them know what they’d learned. With a young noble running around and an unknown temple uncovered, they all thought that Evelyn and Steven might be interesting in going along…
Evelyn didn’t go the Order of the Vine’s revival on the Feast of the Moon, partly because she wasn’t a member of the Order, partly because she preferred being served at such parties instead of doing the entertaining herself, and partly because her (and by extension, Steven) had a better invitation. So she told them she had dragon flu.
The invitation was from Raxmathlinda, the song dragon. Dressed in their best and then cloaked to hide it, Raxmathlinda told them that the Dragonward that protected the city from dragons untouched by Maaril the Dragon Mage’s dragonstaff did not quite cover the entire city. And there were a few places where dragons could technically be in city grounds without being hit with the Dragonward’s aversion. She led them to what appeared to be a small, ramshackle hut. Knocking, they were admitted by a pale-skinned, blue-eyed man with nearly white hair, seeming only a handful of years older than they. It was cool inside the house, which seemed not only to be bigger on the inside, but infinitely finger, appointed like a fine manor house.
Their host greeted them warmly (which was ironic for reasons they soon learned) and took them to a fine chamber below, carved out of rock, draped with curtains of many colors, a roaring fireplace in one wall, and a large table in the middle, laden with food and drink. Four other people were already ranged about it: a woman from Kara-Tur, dressed in the brightly-colored, many layered silk kimonos of her people, a moon elf with very green eyes, a Halfling woman with blonde hair, dressed in copper cloth, and a red-haired dwarf in leather, bearing a surly expression. They were, respectively, a lung wang (Wu Yen), an emerald (Zotu), a gold (Micallbrecath), and a red dragon (Jukuminno). Their host was a white dragon (Karaxmegathron). This was the Waterdeep Council of Wyrms. Though their philosophies differed, sometimes extremely, they were united by the bonds of dragonhood… and their vague distrust and disgust with the Dragon Mage.
Everyone feasted, and in between bites, the Council questioned Evelyn and Steven about their goals. From the line of their questioning, they seemed to be reasonably pleased that Evelyn (and Steven by extension) was aiming high, to be an influential power in the city. Because at least half the Council couldn’t enter the city, either from a desire to not let their presence be known to Maaril, or his own refusal to allow them entrance, they spoke several times of possibly getting the dragonstaff into someone else’s hands someday. Dragons have patience, but the Violettes had both dragon blood and the drive and ambition that came from a shorter lifespan.
(It was during this time the Violettes learned a few interesting stray facts. Jukuminno was a red dragon, but he had a crimson drake companion… the same crimson drake that had blown up Melvin Mask’s shop and had stung Steven. Jukuminno said, “When Vexen decided to take a side job, I was the one that ended up getting kicked out with him.” He had the crimson drake, Vexen, in a small cage, and kicked it periodically. He was very put out with Vexen. He was very put out by everything and everyone, though that seemed to be par for the course. None of the other dragons seemed terribly sympathetic towards the drake either.
Wu Yen’s name sounded quite familiar, because it was she who was the paper golem maker! She brought out two of her samurai-folded paper golems for their amusement, showing the sharpness of their seemingly insubstantial blades, and spent some time talking with Evelyn about the fashions of her home. She carried a companion with her, a paper drake, what looked like nothing so much as a folded paper dragon. But he was a living creature, not a construct. Princess (Evelyn’s cat familiar) was fascinated by him, to the point where Wu Yen had him fold up and tucked him in a fold of her kimono to stave off trouble. (Literally fold up; it’s one of their tricks.) She called him “Rex” at one point, but for dragons that’s the equivalent of “baby,” and likely not his real name.)
Eventually the Council got down to the meat of the meeting. The Dragon Mage could be a tricky and sometimes arbitrary person, and often demanded shares of a dragon’s hoard to admit him or her into the city. It was likely, Karaxmegathron told the Violettes, that part of their current relative poverty was because their parents likely paid Maaril something to reside in Waterdeep. That was not family history as the Violettes had learned it, but it was an interesting theory. The Council wanted their kind to be able to have a somewhat freer approach in the city, being able to interact with people without having to go through Maaril.
In short, they wanted some of their own inside the city, but without the magical monitoring upon them that any dragonstaff-touched dragon would have. They hoped that a full-blooded dragon, born within the Dragonward, might be able to bypass the ward. They’d been studying it and this was a good, solid theory. They weren’t looking for wholesale revolution of the city, just to not have every action seen by a man they did not trust.
It seemed the Council had come into possession of a dragon egg (the same dragon egg, as a matter of fact, that they saw rolling around the floor, on fire, in the Golden Mermaid tavern the night they tried to get answers out of Melvin Mask). They had a place just inside the ward where it could be born, but there were a few inhabitants that needed to be evicted, either by persuasion or by force. As a test of resourcefulness, the Council would give the job to the Violettes. Intrigued, they accepted.
There was a door just at the edge of the Dragonward, and through that door was a portal to somewhere else in Waterdeep. Stepping through, the Violettes found themselves in a corridor, with three rooms at the end of it. One was sealed with an amber-colored resin. One was steel, with a huge elaborate lock in the shape of a demon’s mouth that needed a huge key. The third was strung with beads and admitted not a sound. Magic abounded on the amber door, and through the beaded curtain, though no one heard anything.
Steven decided to open the amber door first, and after putting his back into it, finally broke the seal. Inside was a throne of carved wood, and upon it was a golden women, sprawled slightly as if she’d been tossed there. She wore an antique golden dress, carried a huge key about her neck, and a slim glowing crown upon her head. Her hair, eyes, even her teeth were golden, and her flesh glowed with the same hue. Flanking her, kneeling, were two bronze-skinned men in bronze leather armor, strangely cut so the collar hid their mouths, both carrying two long daggers.
Slowly the woman came away, and blinked at them in some fear.
“Are the Kregar coming? Are we safe?”
A thorough flogging of Evelyn’s memories later, and questioning the golden woman (who thought it was the Year of the Flower Unfolding), she realized who this might be. There was a tiny principality near Waterdeep known as the Golden Kingdom, some five hundred years ago. They had been attacked by a rival kingdom, the fierce Kregars, and destroyed. Their last ruler, the Golden Queen, had vanished before she could be killed. It was said the people of the Golden Kingdom infused their very flesh with substances from other planes, though it hadn’t availed them against the Kregar.
The Queen was greatly saddened when she realized her court wizard, Sarras, had managed to save her, but no more than that. She asked if the Violettes would see what had become of him, because he had had much dangerous magic, and if any of it escaped… She would abide here for the nonce, that she not lose her life after he’d done so much to save it, but offered the help of Challa, one of her bodyguards, in case of trouble. She also gave the Violettes the key to Sarras’ laboratory (the one with the iron door).
Going across the way, and using the huge key, the iron door swung open to reveal a wizard’s workroom, exploded so fiercely that almost nothing had survived. A skeleton, little more than blackened bones, was in the middle of the destruction. Steven knelt down to give the old wizard a blessing of Mystra, when the bones moved. They reached out very slowly as a raspy voice echoed through the skull, “Will you protect her?”
“I will,” Steven said. And with that, he offered his hand to the skeleton. Its bony fingers circled his wrist, and he felt a flash of heat. His scales there were now golden where the fingers had touched, and he immediately knew exactly where the Golden Queen was, and what she was feeling. With a sigh, the bones crumbled to powder.
Muttering to himself about how in the world did he get into these situations, Steven helped Evelyn search the room, and they turned up three scrolls with golden writing, with strange magical spells upon them. They went back to the Golden Queen and told her of Sarras’ fate, that he’d taken it upon himself to make sure no harmful magic survived him. She asked the Violettes to make certain the throne room had been either destroyed or neutralized, because there had been things there too that might cause this new world trouble.
The throne room was beyond the beads, and in looking through them, they saw something odd. Or rather heard something. Or rather, didn’t hear something. Even though the beads did not register as magic, they were apparently keeping all sound out, because they caught a glimpse of two arguing drow, and a dangerous-looking snail with many mace-like heads, a huge shimmering shell, all the size of a horse, but not a sound could be heard. Steven, Evelyn, and Challa pushed into the room, and now sound became clear. The drow argued in a language none of them spoke, turned to see their intruders, and fired upon them.
The battle was joined, Steven charging at once to eviscerate one drow, while the flail snail charged (slowly, it’s a snail) Challa and Evelyn. Evelyn used Margul (the dreaded freeze) to hold one drow while Steven attacked, while Challa went after the flail snail. He nearly had his skull caved in after he got but a single hit, and the flail snail bashed him in retaliation. Evelyn fled ahead of the slow charge and kept pausing to fire off more spells of Margul, but quickly learned the terrible power of the beautiful shell on the flail snail’s back. Three times her spell either fizzled out or nearly rebounded upon her. Steven finished off the second drow, ran to heal Challa enough that he could rise, and both chased after the flail snail as it tried to corner Evelyn.
Nearly out of spells, Evelyn downed a potion of true strike and stabbed it with her silver dagger, even as Steven and Challa flanked it. Challa hurt it a little, then took another blow that laid him out again, and it was up to Steven to finish off the flail snail, stabbing it deeply. The body of the nail dissolved into slime, leaving the magnificent shell. The throne room itself was empty, its contents long-since destroyed, with only a small natural cave entrance (where the drow and flail snail had come from) its only other egress.
Evelyn used a potion of healing to bring Challa out of unconsciousness, and then they returned to guide the Golden Queen to safety. She carried a small chest with her, and emerged from the Portal in the Council of Wyrms with as much dignity as royalty five hundred years out of her time could. There was a bit of a debate as to where she could go, as Steven wanted to bring her to the temple of Mystra, but did not want to tell the Magister exactly where he’d found her, as that would reveal the Council. The Golden Queen said Steve could say he found her in the streets (once she went and got herself lost there) so it wouldn’t be a lie.
While this was going on, Evelyn had realized how valuable that flail snail shell was (thousands), and wanted to use that to invest in silk from Wu Yen’s homeland. Her brother would also use his share, so they could share in the profits. Having silk brought to Waterdeep had the potential to make them all at least well-off, if not wealthy, if they managed things right. Thusly agreed, Wu Yen said she’d send them a message soon.
With all plots in place, eventually the Violettes and the Golden Queen arrived at the temple of Mystra to join in their Feast of the Moon, much to their amazement… and the wonder of the Magister in what star had Steven been born under for crazy things like this to keep happening to him…