The Arrow gathered at their table in back of the Serpent. It was cold outside, and the bar was decorated for the Winter Solstice, happening in a tenday. People had gathered to shake off the chill and escape the persistent fog that had begun just about the time of the Feast of the Moon.
After the fog had come the bats, long after they should have hibernated, the rats have become aggressive, and most ominously, packs of wolves had moved back in, for the first time since the area was settled.
The gypsies had showed up at about the same time as the rest of the mysterious doings. They’ve set up camp between the outer & inner walls north of the city. Citizens have blamed them for the recent troubles, but have also gone out to have their fortunes told. They discovered that the head woman told eerily accurate fortunes, and business increased.
Most recently had been the earthquakes. To understate it slightly, nerves are frayed.
The five members of the Arrow had been, at various times, looking to pick up the trail of their enemies after they had fled the city during the incident with Dagon. They knew little, except that Tervis had changed their plan when he got the shot of Chosen juice. What the original plan was, they don’t know.
Before they can call the meeting to order, though, Mother Mercy walks in, covered in seaweed. And then: Vampires! Roll initiative.
They leap on the Arrow, clawing and biting. Everyone gets a vampire on him. Adalwin, Vell, and Elyas get some good shots in, but Adalwin and Vell quickly go down. A vamp lands on Adalwin and begins to feed.
Mordith notices their claws, as he extracts Mercy’s from his chest, which are not nails so much as blackened ends of fingers. One of the vampires is an Eltorchul girl.
Tinuvial drives one away, and Vell, recoverd, distracts the one on Adalwin. They fight, leaping up on the big table to do so.
Tinuvial calls down some impressing lightning to smite the minion vampires. They wisely bug out, and only Mercy is left.
She leaps down off the bar at Mordith, and claws him again. Too close to fire crossbow, he strikes her with the butt of the thing. Luckily, he had stumbled back into Tinuvial’s radiant damage radius.
She hisses, “I’ll see you again!” and disappears out the window.
They take stock. Mordith looks out the window, but it’s all fog. He pours something warm and banks the fire.
The girls emerge from the second floor, covered in gore and excited as hell. Another vampire was upstairs, hoping to take the group by surprise. They jumped him and drove him off.
Iliana sits down and grabs a drink. “That. Was. Awesome!” she says. As the adrenaline wears off, and the alcohol hits, they become increasingly chatty. The Arrow lets them chatter for a bit, patiently.
Tinuvial spends a few minutes healing everyone, while they drink and talk by the fire.
After a few minutes, it begins to sleet. Vell peeks out the window. In fact, it’s baby teeth, coming from the sky. A few flashes of lightning, green lightning, and then it’s over.
Vell goes up to check, and it seems that the whole city has suffered from the baby teeth plague.
There doesn’t seem to be another threat of attack, so they bolt the doors and rest; Tinuvial trances in the hallway to stand watch.
Next morning, Malevolence opens the bar, and begins to cook. The Arrow and the girls nurse their various hangovers and injuries.
Tinuvial wants to go to the Temple of Seladrine for answers, or at least questions, and the rest of the group goes with.
Outside, it’s cold and dark, and beginning to snow. The city is still covered in baby teeth, and the morning traffic, admittedly less than usual, is slowly crushing them into powder.
A few street vendors are out, and other citizens, and plenty of the watch.
Something is up, they discuss along the way. There have been no vampire attacks since Tervis, and someone must have gone to get Mercy.
As they are walking, they notice a few buildings’ doors inscribed with a curious square-ish symbol. Mordith checks them with his new paladin sight and is instantly overwhelmed with the amount of de-consecration that the teeth have done. The buildings with the symbol, however, have not been de-consecrated.
Adalwin knocks on a door with the symbol and asks the owner, a milkmaid. She says the symbol is being sold by the gypsies to ward off evil. You know, the rats and the ghosts. As she talks, she recognizes them as the Black Arrow. you know, ghosts like the ones we created.
She takes them in and tells them some ghost stories. One of them checks out, as three Asmodei that they killed in the underground lair.
There’s a gypsy she has hired who comes around to replenish the bower knot.
The gypsies were here once long ago. She remembers hearing their language then, but they were driven out by the Watch for stealing children.
They thank her, then take their leave. She scurries next door as they head down the street. “Sewing circle’s gonna be busy tonight,” Adalwin says.
Farther along, they meet a lamplighter that they know, Benji. He asks them what they’re going to do. “The best we can, Benji,” Mordith says. Benji warns him about some Paladins coming down the street. Mordith thanks him, and tells him about the bower knot.
As they walk away, Tinuvial and Mordith argue about whether the gypsies are warding the evil or involved in it.
The paladins are from the Spires of Morning, in spit-shined armor, coming the other way. There’s some tension on the street, but they pass each other with hardly a glance.
There’s little else on the street, so they are at the Temple pretty quickly. They are on full alert at the gates, but they let Tinuvial in without question, and the rest are welcome with him. Even Vell.
On the grounds, it is like a corner of the Feywild, overrun with the natural world, though the grounds are covered with baby teeth. The priests are outside cleaning and re-sanctifying the ground.
Inside, it is just as bustling. They quickly catch sight of Luriniel, who has become a player in the hierarchy as a knowledge-bearer. He is totally not surprised to see them, and welcomes them to a common room for a drink.
They sit near the fire and get food & drink. Tinuvial asks someone to get The Elder.
“So,” Luriniel says. “Baby teeth.”
It de-consecrates the ground, leaving everything open to attack from fiends, intelligent undead, and so on.
They tell him about the visit from the vampires.
He says there have been other portents, like the strange weeds in the Market, that grow incredibly quickly and stubbornly. Every morning, the vendors and carters have to chop the weeds off every morning, and the rats take their share every night as well. It’s particularly bad on the west side of the market.
Underneath the city, the Tower of the Order is re-inscribing the sewers & tunnels in High Eleven magic.
Luriniel has also been helping the Bladesinger with “a substance” to take the edge off.
The gypsies are insular, and the arrow will have to gain their trust. Their head, Luminita, has a very protective bodyguard whom they’ll have to deal with.
They tell him of the bower knot, and he promises to look into it. It rings a bell.
When they ask about the ghosts, he says that the city used to be awash in ghosts until the Spellplague, when something something energy damper. But now things are going back to the way they used to be. Magic items are waking up. Pre-Spellplague spells are working again.
The Heroes of Neverwinter have left this plane for another, Luriniel has on good faith. Something urgent drew them away. The city, though, has been growing by leaps and bounds. A young elven wizard, claiming to be a medium, has been repairing the city’s wards by channelling Das. They’ve been trying to root out the forces holding Luskan, and pirate activity in the area has declined. There has been a rekindling of the Lord’s Alliance, because of the Heroes and their work.
Waterdavians have taken less kindly to their claim to the Coast, including some actual skirmishes on the borders, but more pressing matters (like, say, a giant plot to destroy the respective cities) put an end to that.
Earthquakes are happening in some surrounding cities, and they are strangely strong in all of them.
So…what does it take to make a vampire? Elyas knows of two ways, both of which are a little folkloric. One is to be killed by a vampire, and one would be to strike a pact with a power upon your death.
Before they leave, Tinuvial checks the shrine to Shevarash and Luriniel asks them to help him get William out of the Spires. They agree.
Tinuvial speaks briefly to the Elder about getting the Serpent cleaned, after their unclean visitors.
They head to Blackstaff Tower. Only Tinuvial has been there before, when he dropped off the Crown of Horns.
It is exactly as one would expect, a tall black tower. As they approach, the current Blackstaff, Vajra, opens the door as they approach and invites them in. She leads them up some stairs to a small library and fireplace.
They get right to the point. The omens, the visits — she was visited by zombies last night — all suggest that something is awakening. What? Good question.
Her former mentor (and lover) sensed that something was coming. She thought so as well, perhaps, but divination is not her strong school.
Tinuvial tells her of the gnome they met in Skullport who was apparently living backwards from that event.
The vampires are particularly troubling — their powers are differentiated by bloodlines…so to speak. It’s hard to make a determination as a result, short of capturing or killing one.
The Bower Knot? Seems to be pretty effective. The gypsies are not ones she’s heard of, calling themselves Vistani. Their appearance can’t be coincidental, but that doesn’t mean they’re behind it. Their seers could be particularly effective and maybe looking to make some coin on the incident. To sum up, there’s nothing particularly evil, but they know a thing or two.
The Happening, what the gnome talked of, has been on her list for some time. The recent political conflict with Iker has distracted them. Neverember has been extraordinarily petty of late. Has he been controlled, asks Mordith? Well, he is visited by Iker, more or less every day. And Iker’s wards for the palace (which are typically done by the Blackstaff) are particularly…basic.
Elyas asks why she doesn’t simply break the wards and rebuild them. She answers by showing him the Black Staff. Elyas is brave (or stupid?) enough to touch it: it is filled with the voices of previous Blackstaffs. Her office is to protect the city, including the rightful head of the city. The current conflict complicates but doesn’t negate that. Her position is…delicate.
If the Arrow, however, were to visit the city palace and see some of the glyphs though…. She might be able to use that.
Yes, magic is different — one of her apprentices broke both legs practicing a Fly spell. Is the Staff still working? Yes. Is it necromancy? No, the previous Blackstaffs go into the staff, not Kelemvor’s realm.
Is Iker more powerful in a school of magic than the Staff, and that’s why Iker’s knowledge is obscure, but not inaccessible. Vajra could call it up from the Staff if she needed. The differences are not of power, but politics.
She does not know what the Order is up to underground: they are shielding it heavily, and they have suddenly become close to one of their main rivals, the Plumbers and Cellarers Guild.
They discuss the politics of this for a space. The Blackstaff takes her leave, and suddenly they are in the courtyard.
They shake off that weirdness and get to Phalanter’s Philtres. There is a bowerknot on the door. Amelia, who is obviously pregnant, comes down to greet them and says, “I hope you don’t mind, but I bought a ward from the gypsies.”
They talk about recent doings. Amelia wakes her father, who taps the plaster and chuckles knowingly. No one else knows, actually, but he explains that there are wards all inside the walls. The Arrow feels more comfortable, knowing that.
They settle in for dinner. Tinuvial helps sweep the teeth away, and some of Elyas’s retainers serve some food. It finally dawns on Mordith, at least, that Elyas’s family is noble, and that he and Vell went to school together.
After dinner, they head back to the Serpent.
Naturally, as they come down the street, there’s a pile of skeletons outside the Inn.
They hear Vell and Mordith discussing the finer points of Kantian philosophy, turn, and rush them.
Tinuvial calls out to Shevarash, drives an arrow into the ground and sends out a radiant blast of black light. Two skeletons fall dead immediately. Elyas drops a fireball on the group in the street and empties the back line entirely.
Mordith, Tinuvial, and Adalwin take the rest out in no time.
Mordith hurries to the Inn to check on the girls. Tinuvial, Vell, and Elyas all check the weapons. They are about 300 years old, from a particular graveyard.
Fortunately, the skeletons didn’t make it past the bolted door and shutters. Mordith takes the short sword from Val, then charges upstairs to chew out the girls.
The Slayer is the new guy in town. He showed up earlier, asking if they needed help with the vampire problem. He called himself Ewing, wearing a stovepipe hat and a leather duster full of daggers and carrying a massive crossbow and bolts.
They sleep, wake. The girls get right to work, Val is already up working on breakfast (does she ever sleep), and the breakfast crowd wanders in.
They sit down to their table and plan their day. When they walk outside, though, there are a group of Watchmen standing around a body in the street outside of the Serpent. It clearly was killed by wolves or dogs, and as best as Tinuvial can tell.
Vell elbows his way in to the group of Watchmen and asks what’s up. Killed by wolves, they deduced. A lot of killings farther south, and out in the Thicks, which they blame on the gypsies.
One of the Watchmen seems skeptical. Vell asks him to check out some “vandalism.” Tinuvial can see pretty clearly that the man was killed by a vampire and the wolves came after.
The man Vell talks to doesn’t sleep well, so he’s seen a lot of the weirdness lately, fog, wolves, and so on. The wolves are larger than he’s seen. They go for the legs first. The weirdness first started about three tendays ago, about the same time the sands showed up at the Market. Mostly on the west side, some on the north, too.
The man feels like whenever something odd happens, they get reassigned. That’s Mert’s job, now. The captain has a new right-hand man, slick black hair. Sven or Sen or something. Seems to be doing all the scheduling.
Tinuvial is worried about the corpse turning, so Vell talks the Watch into burning the corpse. Something about disease.
They make their way to the Tower of the Order. Jandallor is outside with Glorium, bundled up in furs against the chill. Glorium, in particular, is happy to see them. Elyas introduces them to Jandallor, an older man who is nonetheless in good shape, with piercing blue eyes that take in quite a bit.
Elyas asks if there is somewhere they can talk without prying eyes & ears. They go down to Jandallor’s chambers, several levels underground, past the alchemy lab and the library. Jandallor is clearly segregating himself from the Order.
His chambers are pretty large, considering. It is mostly decorated in books, but with some components as well. He offers them “something weird.” It’s a bottle of red wine, but with some black-ish stuff in it. They are immediately relaxed, talkative, and cheerful.
Elyas abstains, but is the first one to bring up the conversation with The Blackstaff. She is more powerful than he is, but she can’t attack him unless he directly threatens the city. Jandallor respects her. He guesses that Iker must have some angle that she can neutralize.
How can this guy be a relative unknown in this city of magic and wizards? He must have had some people in place ahead of time, which speaks to some considerable power & influence.
Waterdeep is unusual, Jandallor says, and demonstrates this by putting his hand through thin air into some other plane. Mordith gets curious, and Jandallor repeats the trick with him. The first time is awful, oily, and cold. The second time, it feels warm and happy, and smells like Meadow.
Do the other planes feel The Happening the way we are? Not really — the Weave affects magic here, not There (the Shadowfell, say, and the Feywild). Their sources of magic are different.
Jandallor doesn’t think Mystra really died, but was in some way suppressed. Elminster should have died, but he didn’t.
They can’t be repairing the Hammerfae under the city, since they haven’t asked Jandallor about it. They are doing something to the pillars, though. If one could link all the pillars, they could do just about anything.
Jandallor has seen the Bower Knot before, in a book not of this plane. Which plane? Jandallor isn’t sure. There are beings who can move between planes, and when they do, they bring items with them. On occasion, the Order gets ahold of these things.
He pulls a book off of a shelf, flips through it, and shows them the Knot. The book is from the Realm of Mists. The Vistani are in the book as well, and are described as being able to move between the planes.
Does Jandallor have any silver we can have? No — an odd person named Ewing bought all of it from him. He was looking for specific components for his “kit.” He had a sheaf of papers he kept referring to, and he seemed to be looking for very specific things like nitre silver, wolfsbane, and so on.
They go to Elyas’s house for dinner, since it’s not too far away. The sun sets, and the howling begins. What could go wrong?
Elyas, Vell, and Mordith go to the north to find out about the gypsies. Vell tells some blatant lies about Mordith’s sex life in order to get past the guard.
The gypsy camp is pretty evident from the campfires. As they come to the camp, they see a pair of them dressed in a hodge-podge of clothes and armor, a basket rapier, and some other strange devices. “Here for the future readings?” Their accents are unplaceable.
They ask them to leave their weapons in The Box. Mordith has some serious qualms, but the gypsies’ accents are reassuring, so he leaves Meadow in the box.
A girl in the camp leads them to a wagon in the middle, richly appointed. A woman is sitting at the far end, with three seats laid out ahead of time.
“Yes, we are not from here,” she says. “Now, what do you want to know?”
What are Iker’s goals? She plays a card, a Gem, the card of wealth, material gain.
What is Mercy’s vampire bloodine? The Knight, royalty.
Where are they from? Rogue, the shadow, the mist. The place chose them; they did not choose the mist.
Why is the infestation worse in the west? The vizier, someone in a bureaucracy is controlling it.
Who drew you here? The Key, the link between places.
What are the goals of the Cellarer’s Guild and the Hammerfey? Ruin.
Who wants the ruin? Talons, someone with insatiable animal hunger, no intelligence or politics.
Why are the gypsies here? Balance.
Were they here 30 years ago? Yes. They were scapegoats for slavers. They do not hold any ill will; in fact, they have little control over where they go.
Is Mystra dead, or just sleeping? The Sun (which sets but also rises).
What is Mert’s involvement in all this? The Idiot. Because he’s, you know…an idiot.
Meanwhile, down in the Thirsty Throat…Adalwin’s fence, Nivalis, asks him if he’s willing to murder Xanathar, legendary head of the Skullport underworld. He’s too methodical. But Adalwin is confused — he joined these people because they seemed more intelligent.
This was the right answer. “Alright,” he says. “I think we can really talk.” He makes a sign against his forehead, which a few patrons of the bar echo.
If Adalwin wanted to take care of someone who’s more smash & grab, would that be alright? Yes.
What’s going on in the sewers? Sort of. The Order is re-inscribing pillars, and the Cellarers & Plumbers are helping. But only the new ones. The head of the guild is the old head of the Gravediggers’ Guild. His name is Mort. He’s back in town. He’s making moves, looking for power.
He operates under the Market and so on.
Any oddness beneath the surface, like the stuff above-ground? Yep. Lots of opening up of old things.
The stress between the guilds is at an all-time high. The Cellarers are trying to cut out some of the other guilds.
There is some other talk about things. But there are also boobs on the internet.
Badger, though, likes to hang out at the Purple Palace, right around the corner from the Thirsty Throat, and it’s been on Adalwin’s to-do list for some time. It’s a house of prostitution, and Badger likes to hang out there. He makes some money there hustling, and the owners are OK as long as they take a cut.
Badger is a dwarf, but he’s not dressed like one. He’s clean-shaven, for one, and he’s well-dressed. Dandyish, even, but without much taste. His nickname comes from his shock of white in the midst of his black hair.
When they arrive, he’s surrounded by four young women, whom he quickly banishes. They begin to talk. Mort, now. Mort wears makeup, and has a particular smell. A hunger. Iker’s involvement? Who knows. But the other guilds are catching wind though, so to speak, and allying against him.
The gypsies are pretty up & up.
The new graveyard? Well, there was a problem in the old graveyard — someone opened a tomb and out came the zombies.
They meet up back at the Serpent. For once, no one has to fight their way inside. The girls are just finishing up cleaning the floors. Mordith gives them a calmer talking-to, and they go upstairs with a bottle of wine to rest.
The Arrow, sans Elyas, regroup and share information.
The Talon card reminds Tinuvial of Malar, god of beasts and savagery. Lycanthropy fits under his rubric.
The Vizier, the bureaucrat, doesn’t have to be a literal bureaucrat, but someone acting behind the scenes.
Who brought the two guilds together, though?
In all, who’s behind the scenes? Maybe someone like Alabaster Morningstar. We haven’t heard much about him, but the paladins certainly are walking around with little fear.
Mort is, in fact, a ghoul, busting tombs and disgorging bodies. He’s blocking the dwarves’ access to whatever they’re doing down below, so what is it that the dwarves would recognize?