Corruption of Azim

Codex II - Chapter 1

Fort Hamden

Dustin Ashe found himself quite content to be in the city of Fort Hamden. He and his companions had camped out in the cold November weather for just over two weeks to get there, so the return to civilization was welcome to the young man. Of course it didn’t hurt that the wizard Asmodeus had treated them to a banquet and lodging at a fine inn.

This city was much more lively than the small, run down town of Fallerun where Dustin had met his new friends. Both night and day the streets seemed to bustle with activity. Validran merchants going to and from Aelhaim stopped here to trade with the caravans that brought goods from the west over the marshes. The taverns were filled with patrons and the sorcerer had seen more than a few lovely ladies.

Dustin chuckled as he looked over at the wizard. Asmodeus was bartering (or perhaps more accurately, arguing) with one of the many merchants in town. The elf, Gaimon, stood nearby as a silent sentinel. The warrior took his job as a bodyguard seriously, especially as it occasionally provided excuse for a little violence.

It was a sunny day for November, but sharply cold. While he waited, Dustin peeked at a treasure which lay hidden in a silk handkerchief. It was a single red scale, strong as metal. He’d been given the scale from his step-grandfather who lived in the outskirts of Fallerun. It represented proof of his lineage which fascinated him.

Standing nearby, Nock looked on with curiosity. Being a gnome, he wasn’t tall enough to see what Dustin was holding, but he was sure it must be valuable. Then again, longfolk often had strange notions. He plunged his hand into his magical bag of holding and felt the many coins which he had squirreled away in there. The gnome wondered how long the wizard would stay in the outdoor market. There were plenty of nice warm shops around.

Unable to agree on a price, Asmodeus sneered at the merchant and then walked away. No matter, he thought to himself, There are plenty of others here that I can buy from. It’s not like he’s the only one with merchandise from the West. Fort Hamden provided much greater options than poor old Fallerun, but still it was no Aelhaim.

Welcome to Codex II, a new gray box style (to match the OP site), and the return to third person omniscient narration. The party arrived in Fort Hamden four days ago.

I need you all to pay for November’s cost of living expenses as per the upkeep variant on pg. 130 of the DMG. However, since Asmodeus paid for a week of lodging, he must pay an extra 42 gp while Gaimon, Nock, and Dustin pay 14 gp less.

You’ve been in town long enough to get some stuff done already, so we won’t include all purchases and activities in the narration. We’ll just focus on the interesting stuff. Your various gems/jewels (from the treasury, soldiers, and gnolls) have been appraised at 6,482 gp.

Please post what you’d like to do (or have done), especially regarding your ill-gotten loot and purchases you’d like to make. Asmodeus has already begun searching for Shok’ragal’s contact, but hasn’t found him/her (it?) yet.

I’ve simply divided up the cash 1/4 per character again. Did the 6482 include the art we took from the treasury?

As far as the magic items, we need to get them appraised first to see which ones we want to keep, and which ones we want to sell. On the google doc for Asmodeus, there’s a new tab for “Loot.” The items I think we need more thoroughly analyzed are on the right. With the trip to Fort Hamden, Asmodeus would have cast Detect Magic and studied all of the items pretty thoroughly. Shall I roll Spellcraft checks like we did for Gaimon’s greatsword? Knowledge? Use Magic Device? I don’t really want to detail everything we would have tried out on items, as per the DMG p. 212, so I’ll leave it to the DM to give us info on the items he thinks we might have gleaned on the trip. Btw, DM, what do you want to do about Spellcraft checks in conjunction with Detect Magic to determine what schools of magic were used with each item? I did ask for that, but if you don’t think it’s a big deal, DM, then we can forgo it. All of this will help us prioritize which ones we want Analyzed Dweomerly, and if we want to just get a few items assessed with Identify. And does magic armor (i.e., armor +1) get detected if Detect Magic is used?

We need to find someone, hopefully not someone who asks too many questions, capable of casting Analyze Dweomer for any items we haven’t gotten a good read on in the 2 week trip. Twice. I show that we have 20 magic items to fence or use. Actually, we’ll probably have to what, get a notarized note saying all the items we have actually have the abilities we claim they do, so we can sell them?

Asmodeus would like to liquify most of the items they will not use into cash. He would look around, and have the others do so, for people willing to buy weapons and armor (on the left side of the “Loot” tab of the google doc). Any identifying marks (like the strips marking the Validran lieutenant from the second group) would have been taken care of on the trip to Fort Hamden.

If the guy we find to cast Analyze Dweomer is a wizard, Asmodeus will be interested in trying to trade spells from spellbooks, if the wizard is amenable to such an arrangement. Or, heck, any other wizard in town for that matter. We’ve got time (maybe) while waiting for our contact to, you know, make contact.

Once we’ve gotten the items analyzed and sold off (or kept) then we’ll look to what items Gaimon and Asmodeus would like to buy, if available. One thing at a time.

Sorry, I forgot about the detect magic stuff. It won’t give you a ton of info, but may help you decide what to bother getting identified. Because there are so many items you’ve looted, I just put a new column on your spreadsheet with the information you discovered. I won’t post the results here.

It isn’t uncommon for adventurers to roll into a town with items needing to be identified. True, you’ll hope the person isn’t too curious about where you got the items, but it’s not unprecidented. Likewise, it’s not uncommon for adventurers to sell items; we won’t worry about the details of notarized notes and all that. But remember you can usually only get 1/2 the listed purchase price when selling an item.

The art items were not included. They are worth another 500 gp.

I’ve added the art items to my money as well, again dividing it equally among the four players. Asmodeus and Gaimon have no use for art, and I assume Dustin and Nock don’t either. Except for the painting of Dustin’s mother, of course.

Two questions, DM. I’ve done a little math on the “Loot” table, you can see it to the left of the looted items. Basically, did I do that right? Each item is at least a masterwork +1 (we think) item. So you can see the prices of a MW item to the left, and then the prices of a MW+1 item yet one more column over. Totals, and then divided in half (approximately what we could get for selling them), are towards the bottom. This is just for the items that we think are just +1 items. So first, did I do that right?

Second, can we assume that we can sell them as +1 items at minimum without having “Analyze Dweomer” or “Identify” cast on them? Others could Detect Magic them to know that they are magically enhanced items, even if we didn’t know specifics as to how enhanced they are.

I’m thinking if the answer to question 2 is “no,” and my math is right, then it’s definitely worth our time to get them analyzed to prove conclusively that they are +1 items. If the answer to question 2 is “yes,” then we have to gamble on whether or not we think any of them is a +2 item. Even one such item would offset the costs of having them analyzed. Just in case.

TL;DR. We should have everything Dweomerly Analyzed, I think.

To continue the theme of mercantile endeavors, Nock will want to keep the enchanted dagger and crossbow, Dustin the flaming sword. They’ll both like the idea of casting analyze dweomer. All the rest, unless some of that armor is enchanted leather or padded, they are willing to sell or keep as Gaimon and Asmodeus deem appropriate.

Amongst merchants, Nock is on the lookout for an assassin’s dagger. Dustin wants a flaming burst longsword. Nock also wants to start amassing ingredients for his poison. He’s prepared to make some discreet and costly purchases. As we discussed long ago, Nock’s poison is in effect and costliness, the same as Deathblade poison.

Nock is ready to entertain. He dons the demeanor he’s practiced so well, that of a pleasant and care-free gnome, and stands on a crate in a square or busy city corner and plays his gittern, attempting to draw a crowd.

It’s not for love of the music. Nock would much rather play the dark and frenzied songs that he lets no else hear. He plays publicly for two reasons: he uses his keen ears to gather news—he’s especially interested in talk of Validran politics, the king and his court, the Isley family, Baron Goldhammer (as per Asomdeus’ request), Fallerun and Renferrel’s assassination, the treacherous Calinor Marshes, and his hometown Nobwyn—and he likes shiny gold coins to pay for his day-to-day. He calls it “livin off the land.” Here are rolls for the first three days. I authorize the DM to roll any additional days’ rolls.

Nock’s Perform roll (day 1): 20 (roll) + 11 (mods) = 31 total (that’s pretty epic!).
Nock’s Perform roll (day 2): 5 (roll) + 11 (mods) = 16 total.
Nock’s Perform roll (day 3): 6 (roll) + 11 (mods) = 17 total.
Nock’s Gather Information roll (day 1): 1 (roll) + 7 (mods) = 8 total.
Nock’s Gather Information roll (day 2): 1 (roll) + 7 (mods) = 8 total.
Nock’s Gather Information roll (day 3): 13 (roll) + 7 (mods) = 20 total.

Dustin will probably drink a lot, flirt a lot, and get into a bar fight or two. He can’t quite understand the notion that some women are taken. He talks often to the group of finding the dragon. He also wants to continue studying Draconic and pesters Asmodeus about it often.

So, yes, we’ll get everything Dweomer Analyzed. Gaimon and Asmodeus aren’t going to purchase anything until they know how much cash they have, and exactly what Shok’ragal wants with them.

I forwarded you the email, DM, but to be clear here in a post, Asmodeus wants to gather information on two items. First, how Renferrel’s assassination is being talked about, once word gets to Fort Hamden. Second, find out general information about Baron Goldhammer. The wizard isn’t above using Suggestion and Charm Person to do so. This on top of looking around for fellow wizards to possibly trade spells with and continuing to teach Dustin Draconic. (How much longer would you say the teaching is going to have to go on, DM?)

Gather Information Checks (I rolled 3 per character, DM is authorized to roll more):

Asmodeus 1: 5 (roll) + 3 (Bonus) = 8 total.
Asmodeus 2: 15 (roll) + 3 (Bonus) = 18 total.
Asmodeus 3: 12 (roll) + 3 (Bonus) = 15 total.
Gaimon 1: 3 (roll) + 0 (Bonus) = 3 total.
Gaimon 2: 2 (roll) + 0 (Bonus) = 2 total.
Gaimon 3: 3 (roll) + 0 (Bonus) = 3 total. Gaimon’s tearin’ it up with the Gathering Information!

Gaimon won’t get in any of the bar fights, unless he sees that Dustin is in serious trouble. Asmodeus will want them to keep it to “an honest brawl between folk.” Nobody wants the Alliance, er, the Validras forces, to notice.

“Hey, so while you’re busy with these merchants I’ll just be over here in this bar.” Dustin pointed over to a bar where several young ladies were just entering.

Asmodeus shook his head. On only their second day in the city Dustin had gotten himself into a bar fight over some girl. “Maybe later,” he answered. “It’s almost time to meet with Melinda. I could use your help bringing all those items to her.”

“Oh, well…” Dustin was looking over toward the bar still. “I guess. So do you think this Melinda would be interested in a good time?”

Items Arcana was a small shop with two levels. The group was led upstairs to where the proprietor, Melinda, sat on a sofa poring over a book. The woman didn’t appear to notice them as they entered, but shot them a look of annoyance when Gaimon dropped a set of armor on the table with a loud clatter.

“Must your hired muscle be so noisy?” she asked. “Is it time already?”

“This is the time you specified, is it not?” Asmodeus responded.

Melinda looked up at a clock hanging on the wall. Nock didn’t know what to make of it as there were no normal numbers. In their place were strange runes made of golden inlay.

“So it is. Very well, let’s get started.”

Dustin had a hard time keeping his eyes off this woman as she got up from the couch and pulled a chair over to the desk. She was obviously older, probably in her forties, but she retained a youthful, attractive figure. Long brown hair cascaded down her shoulders and over the loose-fitting robe she wore. Dustin noticed the symbol of the Order of Scions University embroidered on the sleeve.

From a pocket she pulled out a small red lens. Asmodeus recognized this as a magical focus required to perform the spell that would identify the magical properties of their loot. Melinda looked through this lens as she cast the spell. Then her eyes began to glow faintly and she began inspecting objects one by one, informing the group of their properties.

“Magical armor. A ring of Feather Falling. Now here, this is a Staff of Fire that’s nearly out of charges; just seven left. A fine magical blade.”

She got a quizzical look as she picked up an empty bottle.

“How interesting. This is a Bottle of Air.”

“Anyone could tell that, m’lady,” Dustin said flippantly. “I don’t see what’s so magical about an empty bottle.”

“No, no. That is the magic: it’s always full of air. Here, you,” she said, putting the bottle into Gaimon’s hand, “put this into that vase of water there.”

Gaimon shrugged and held the small, open bottle under the water. A stream of bubbles emerged from the bottle, but it didn’t fill with water. Soon it was apparent that much more air had escaped than the size of the container. Nock and Gaimon exchanged glances of mild surprise.

Meanwhile, Melinda was performing a second casting of the spell in order to finish identifying the items.

“More magical armor. Ah, but look, the markings of the Knights Justicar have been vandalized. That will make it harder to sell to those in the know, assuming that’s your intention.”

Gaimon shot a questioning glance over at Asmodeus. But the wizard waved him off. Asmodeus wasn’t worried about Melinda. He had taken care to find someone who wouldn’t ask too many questions. Rumors around town told of how Melinda was skilled in crafting magical items but had little regard for authority, or even for her customers. He was curious about her involvement with the magical university, but knew better than to interrupt the expensive Analyze Dweomer spell.

“This is a very fine blade,” Melinda said as Dustin handed her the final item, the sword from his sheath. “Excellent workmanship in magic. Flaming is its special ability.” She spoke the command word and fire sprang forth from the blade, causing Dustin’s eyes to light up with delight.

“A pleasure doing business with a fellow alumni,” Asmodeus said as he paid the fee for Melinda’s services.

“Bah. I cut ties with the school long ago, and even then it catered too heavily to young nobles and stodgy old professors too set in their ways. They wanted to place me in Lysidia, crafting items for the rich. What a waste of my talent that would have been.

“Still, I do keep this old robe around. It’s terribly comfortable and customers like seeing the University’s crest. They think it means something.”

The younger wizard chuckled. He knew all too well the truth of her statements and shared much of her sentiment toward the university.

The group packed up their newly identified loot and bid Melinda farewell. But she had already returned to her book and merely waved dismissively.

After leaving Items Arcana the party set about selling the items they had no use for to merchants around the city. Asmodeus was slightly hesitant to buy much until he knew more detail about what Shok’ragal’s task for them would entail. But Nock was ready to spend his share of coin.

Given leave of his bodyguard duties for a while, Gaimon went with Nock as he searched out the seedier vendors in back rooms, alleys, and basements. A conniving old dwarf offered to sell him an Assassin’s Dagger which the gnome grew quickly fond of. But the dwarf seemed too eager, causing Nock to wait before making such a purchase. He could always come back.

Discretely Nock made several costly purchases in order to amass the ingredients he’d need to create a new batch of his personal gritty poison. He missed being without the poison, having used up his last doses on that cursed nephew of Isley and some gnolls. After making one such purchase, he and Gaimon were approached by a human with an unkempt black beard and a wolfish face.

“You chaps look like you could make use of some special potions, am I right? I’ve got the stuff to increase your strength or even magical abilities. And I’m selling them at a mere two crowns per vial see?”

Gaimon brushed past and replied, “We’re not looking for any potions today.”

But the man followed after them, running to get in front again. “Look, I’m selling these for bargain prices. Why? Well, let’s just say not everything is entirely legal. But hey, all my customers return for more, right? I guarantee you’ll like it.”

The gnome and elf put on a collective scowl. The man seemed to understand that he was in a dangerous position. And he backed off a step.

“Look, I see you’re tough customers. So I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you this free sample. I can’t afford to do this for just anybody, of course, but I can tell that you two would make good use of it. And I know you’ll be back.”

The man handed a vial of white liquid to Gaimon who took it just to be done with this annoyance. As he and Nock continued to walk away, they heard him call after them. “When you’re ready for more, just come back around these parts. The name’s Edwin.”

Meanwhile, Asmodeus was keeping an eye on Dustin while trying to gather information. Fortunately, the taverns that the young sorcerer liked to frequent were excellent places for casually asking about the city and current events.

Over the last few days he had listened for news about Fallerun and cautiously asked the occasional question. Some people didn’t even recognize the name, many others had heard rumors of noble families taking an interest in happenings there. The rumors were varied, but one common theme stood out: the Isley and Corbain families were fighting over it. He hadn’t heard any news about the late mayor.

The wizard rolled his eyes as he saw Dustin flirting with several women who were overly impressed by the sorcerer’s pyrotechnics. It wasn’t that Dustin was ineffective — much the opposite in fact — but Asmodeus had no interest in the problems that such flirtatious behavior too often entailed.

At least he’s not openly asking about the dragon again, he thought. I hope we find our contact soon. Otherwise he’ll drive me mad with his questions! At least we can have an actual conversation now when he pesters me about learning Draconic.

From his vantage point at the bar, the wizard looked around the room at the various patrons. There was a good mix of merchants, travelers, city-folk, and even Validran soldiers off-duty from the fort. A group of dwarves sitting around a nearby table caught his attention when he overheard them say something about Coppermine Ridge.

“Excuse me,” he began as he drew near their table, “I couldn’t help but overhear you say something about Coppermine Ridge?”

“Aye, that’s were we hail from,” one stout looking dwarf answered. “We lead caravans across the marshes between here and ol’ Coppermine.”

“I’ve never been across the marshes. What’s your city like? I’ve heard someone named Baron Goldhammer lives there?”

Asmodeus listened as the dwarves told about the steep roads that lead up into the mountains to the city. They told of underground passages and the famous mine. Apparently Baron Goldhammer owns the mine which still continues to provide plenty of copper as the primary export. As owner of the mine, he was the de-facto leader of the community. Along with a council of elders made up of other rich entrepreneurs, Goldhammer dealt in treaties with the western nations.

“But recently he’s taken up talks with your King Heron,” the stout dwarf explained. “Although we’ve always had good trade across the marshes, your King and his fathers have always been wantin’ to expand their kingdom. The western nations, especially the elves, don’t want the kind of bloodshed that you’ve had with the Northern Free Coalition, so they’ve long kept treaties with Goldhammer and his fathers. They send money and warriors to the Ridge to keep Validras out.

“These new talks have people concerned. Validras can’t invade the west without support from Coppermine Ridge, and they can’t breach its defenses — though they’ve sent plenty of men to their deaths trying to do so. The fear is that Goldhammer could be bought. Then the tables are turned.”

”’e’d never do that,” another of the dwarves stated with slurred speech that was fitting for the amount of ale Asmodeus had watched him down.

“You never know,” the first one replied. “The Goldhammer family has always been about business. If King Heron put enough —”

The dwarf was interrupted by yet another of his race who had just entered the tavern and came running to them.

“I seen him again! That merchant we saw back home, remember? The one selling those black dragon hides and armor? He’s here down yonder street!”

“Black dragon hides?” Asmodeus asked.

“Aye, that’s what he claims. Those scales are mighty tough, but I dunno how he’d get his hands on real black dragon scales. He says they’d be mighty good protection against acids. What say we get some in case the ol’ Matron comes round again?”

Consider your dweomer analyzed. Melinda charged you 1,800 gp for the two castings. But I’m sure you’ll find it worth the price as there were a few +2 items in the mix. I’ll post the results of the spell plus what you can get for selling each item on Eryx’s spreadsheet shortly.

I’ll just mention a few items here. Gaimon’s weapon is a +2 shock greatsword. Dustin’s is a +3 flaming longsword. It’s not the flaming burst that he was looking for, but still a good blade.

Items Arcana is a shop where some types of magical items are crafted and made available for purchase. Also Melinda has spellbooks from which you may pay to copy. I’ll create the wiki page for that soon and list items and spells available.

Dustin’s Draconic is coming along nicely. I think we’re OK to say that he’s now fluent and can add it to his languages (he needed it for his Dragon Disciple level anyway). But Asmodeus has had much more practice and to solidify the language Dustin will probably want/need to continue practicing for a while.

Nock’s performances have been quite good, earning him 14 gp, 2 sp.

Between Nock and Asmodeus, you’ve gathered the following bits of information:
1. Validran politics are abuzz with talk of Isley vs. Corbain regarding the handling and mayorship of the small town of Fallerun which was basically unknown to most of the kingdom’s citizens until now.
2. It is known that Isley and Corbain have gone to Fallerun with troops to resolve the situation, but nothing is known yet regarding the results or the current state of Fallerun. No one has heard of Renferell’s death yet.
3. Regarding King Heron, there are rumors still floating around about a possible alliance between Validras and Coppermine Ridge. It’s likely that this topic is much more interesting to the people of Fort Hamden due to their trading across the marshes. Therefore the rumors may tend to be somewhat more exaggerated. Other rumors of the King’s court are less frequent here, partly due to the citizenry not feeling especially patriotic to country.
4. The Calinor Marshes are dangerous. There are various kinds of creatures and monsters that live out there. Plus the land is full of swamps, marshes, and bogs which make travel difficult. Most people who must travel use the road which cuts through the smallest amount of marshland possible. But concentrating all the trade across that road has brought some problems; specifically black dragons attacking caravans from time to time.
5. Nobwyn is still a quiet village, but has grown as the kingdom has expanded. Some people in Fort Hamden worry that if the village grows too large it may take away much of their trade with the west.

At this point I’m expecting you to decide on any other purchases you want to make before knowing details about Shok’ragal’s task for you. Specifically, will you interact with this Edwin character or investigate the merchant dealing in dragon hides?

“The ol’ Matron?” Asmodeus asks, raising an eye. He’ll continue the conversation for a moment, thank the dwarves for their time, then head out to meet this dragonhide vendor. The wizard will surreptitiously (if possible) cast Charm Person on the merchant. He wants to know where the man gets his hides from, and will ask in a roundabout way about to avoid getting killed by a Black Dragon’s acid breath weapon. Something along the lines of: “Don’t you have to have special protection to go up against a dragon? Black dragons spit acid or some such, don’t they?” When Gaimon finds out about this merchant, he’ll want to talk to him to see about getting a +5 Dragonhide Plate set made. Just to ask questions, really. Gaimon is suddenly considering the possibility of using the scales of the dragon that they intend (he hopes) to slay to get a personalized set of armor made up.

Gaimon will mention to Asmodeus the encounter with Edwin. Not seeing any harm in trying, the wizard will cast Detect Magic on the potion. If it is magic, then Asmodeus will be more interested in further investigating what Edwin has. If it’s not, then Gaimon will hit the con man without a word if he ever comes back around and pesters them again.

Asmodeus and Gaimon will both help Nock, if he wants, to try and find somewhere he could get some enchants on his weapons, or new weapons, or something to help the little assassin be more effective in combat.

I’ve deducted 1/2 the amount of the Analyze Dweomer spell from my money (my characters share all their money). Asmodeus is looking to purchase a Minor Ring of Spell storing. For sure we need a new wand of Cure Light Wounds, though.

Long-term thinking, we have to do something to convince Baron Goldhammer it’s NOT in his best interest to let Validras expand through Coppermine Ridge. Apparently the fact that they’ve been throwing soldiers at him isn’t enough to make him think their intentions aren’t exactly honorable.

Also, I’m very much liking the 3rd person omniscient narration. I think it just works better.

Edit: Asmodeus would also like to begin copying, as quickly as possible, the following spells, in the following order. We’ll see how far he gets before the quest necessitates his leaving town. I guess I’m assuming 8 hours a day of “office hours” and that one day of office hours counts as studying the spell. Would that be correct, DM?
1. Resist Energy.
2. Displacement.
3. Disguise Self.
4. Arcane Sight.
5. Invisibility.

He’ll have Read Magic prepared so that he can automatically succeed at reading the spells. I’ve rolled a Spellcraft Check for Displacement, 14 (roll) + 16 bonuses = 30 total, and Asmodeus automatically succeeds at Spellcraft checks for the other spells due to his high Spellcraft bonus. At the minimum, he wants to get the Resist Energy spell before leaving town.

Edit 2: We’ve outlined the loot distribution on the google doc. If I’ve done the math right, each character should get 7547.5 gold. I’ve updated my character sheets to reflect the armor change to Asmodeus getting a Ring of Protection and the Amulet of Natural Armor. Nock gets the Bracers and the other Ring of Protection.

Gaimon is interested in getting a Ring of Force Shield (DMG p. 232).

Ring of Minor Spell Storing-18000 gold.
Ring of Force Shield-8500 gold.
Spells (assuming Asmodeus can get all of them copied) 1650 gold.

That leaves my characters with 9620 gold. We won’t buy anything else until we know what we’re doing next.

While Asmodeus is copying spells, he’ll get very excited. Magic study is something he finds very enjoyable. He’s prone to get visibly excited when he makes a particular discovery in his studies or makes a connection that helps him understand the spells better. He might even say something like “Ah,” or even a “yes” or a small cheer.

While he’s spending hours and hours with Melinda, he’ll definitely be nice to her, offer to grab her lunch when he goes to get his, playing up their mutual distaste of the University, and thanking her profusely each day. She appears to be of like mind of him, so no reason to not try to make a friend out of her. He’s got a number of days in her shop. He’d like to be her friend by the time that is all done. Possibly even an ally of sorts, if she responds well.

Sorry for the delay; we lost power for a couple of days and updating the character sheets took some time tonight.

I think I’ve got everything. Dustin got the flaming sword +3 and Nock got the bottle of air, ring of feather falling, one of the rings of protection +1, a dagger +1, and a light crossbow +1. (Are these last two small size? And, if not, can Nock use them or should we sell them to buy something smaller?) Is that right?

Dustin will be very interested in the black dragon hide merchant, but probably not in any way that is helpful to the group. He finds the wearing of dragon scales distasteful, a bit like an animal rights activist would find furs sickening. He’ll want to pester the merchant for information, but will have trouble masking his disgust. If anyone wonders aloud if he’ll have trouble helping to slay the dragon, he’ll say, “Not to worry. After all, dragons fight and even kill each other. I’m just not too keen on wearing the skins of my opponents. The only trophy I take home from battle is my enemy’s wife.”

Nock is keen to get that dwarf’s assassin’s dagger, but is worried about being conned or, worse, buying a cursed weapons. He’ll want Asmodeus or Dustin to cast Detect Magic on the dagger in question to see whether it’s even magical. If it is, he may also trail the dwarf home after he closes shop. He’s interested in Edwin’s potions, since he delights in all poisons. “Mayhaps, we pour it down someone’s throat, just to see what happens,” he says. Now that Nock has been on the road for weeks with the group, they’ve noticed a marked improvement with his Common speech.

“The ol’ Matron?” Asmodeus asked, raising an eye.

The dwarves all stopped and looked at the wizard in bewilderment.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the Black Matron!” one said.

“The Terror of the Marshes?” another offered.

“Bane of Caravans?”

Asmodeus shook his head in the negative.

“The Black Matron is an old dragon. She’s preyed on caravans crossing the marshes for over five hundred years. Some say longer. Other black dragons cause trouble from time to time, but she’s the worst. She can put up quite a fight, but she’s also cunning. Grabs treasure and runs. Much of the road across the marshes falls under her territory.

“This last summer our caravan was attacked by the Matron. She killed a dozen people, including our best sorcerer. Ol’ Brynn here drew blood in a couple gashes before she flicked him away with her tail. I thought we were well prepared, but I was wrong. Maybe we could have killed her, had she stuck around, but I doubt more than a handful would have survived. Lucky for us she wasn’t interested in a real fight. She just took what she wanted and flew off.”

The dwarves weren’t very quiet in rehearsing their tale and before long talk of dragons attracted Dustin like a moth to flame. He was very interested to hear their description of the dragon and the fight.

“How frequent are black dragon attacks?” the sorcerer asked. “Trade around here seems too good for it to be a common occurrence.”

“Common enough,” one of the dwarves snorted. “There are two or three attacks every month. The dragons are smart, see? They don’t attack too often, so they don’t get hunted down. And caravans can’t justify keeping expensive protection around all the time.”

After a little more discussion, Asmodeus thanked the dwarves for their time and then left to find this dragonhide vendor. Dustin wasn’t sure he liked the idea, but went along to see.

It wasn’t difficult to find the vendor. He was standing on a box holding up some black scale mail — presumably fashioned from the dragon hides — and a large group of people had gathered around. While pressing their way through the crowd, Dustin and Asmodeus heard the vendor expound the virtues of his product; most specifically the fine armor quality and resistance to acid. Apparently he only had a few sets of scale armor, but also some other magic armor created using the properties of the dragon scales.

Surreptitiously Asmodeus cast Charm Person on the merchant. He wanted to know where this man got his hides from and how he avoided being killed by black dragons, and charming the vendor seemed the most direct way to get that information. Just after the spell was cast, the vendor caught eye of the wizard and smiled.

“Friend, will you be buying some dragon hides or armor today?” the vendor asked.

“Perhaps,” the wizard answered. “But how do you get them? Don’t you have to have special protection to go up against a dragon? Black dragons spit acid or some such, don’t they?”

“Head of the class, ladies and gentlemen!” the vendor cried as he pointed to Asmodeus and turned his attention back to the audience. “Black dragons are very dangerous! And what better protection from their acids than armor imbued with magic from their own scales! Or if you’re rich and lucky enough, the scales themselves can be your armor! These hides are a scarce commodity, so buy now and buy quickly!”

The vendor continued on with his sales pitch. While Asmodeus tried to get his attention again, Dustin inspected a small patch of dragonhide which was on display. He noticed that the glossy scales were much smaller and looked weaker than the precious one he had tucked away.

“These can’t be from an adult dragon,” he whispered to Asmodeus. More and more he was finding the work of this merchant distasteful. Speaking up he asked, “Why would you want to wear these?”

The merchant either missed or overlooked the obvious disgust with which Dustin asked the question. His answer turned into another spiel on the quality and value of his merchandise. After a few minutes the crowd was thinning and the vendor started preparing to move his wares to another location.

Seizing the opportunity, Asmodeus asked again where the hides came from. The man glanced around to see who was watching and he had a look of concern on his face.

“Well… I…” he began. Then he paused, obviously conflicted about what he should say.

Asmodeus recognized that the man was subconsciously fighting against the charm spell. “Come,” he said, “you can trust us. We’re not looking to get in the dragonhide business. We just have a special interest in black dragons.”

The vendor let out a long sigh. “Of course. It’s not that I don’t trust you! But I can’t reveal this trade secret, not even to a close friend such as yourself. It’s not safe… not safe for anybody.”

After another pause his more boisterous demeanor returned. “But I’ll tell you what I’ll do! 5% discount on any purchase! Don’t ever say that Linus McFarland never did anything for you!”

While Linus packed up his things, Dustin caught sight of Nock and Gaimon and waved them over.

“What’s all this?” Gaimon asked.

Dustin rolled his eyes and turned a face of disgust. So Asmodeus answered the question.

“Mr. McFarland here is selling black dragon hides and armor.”

Gaimon’s eyes lit up and he turned to McFarland who was just finishing putting his things on a cart. “Can dragon scales be used to make a high-quality magic set of plate armor?”

“Ugh! What? Why would you do that?!” Dustin complained.

But McFarland again took no heed. “You know, that’s very possible. Very doable. But it would require quite a bit of hide. I only have a limited supply so most of the scales have to be used to create special magical resistances. It takes a lot of scales to make full plate armor, you know. But how about this scale mail? Very good, right? How about that?”

Gaimon frowned, causing McFarland to continue. “No? Well, no harm. You look like a strong one — if you can slay yourself a large dragon then you’ll have all the hide you’ll need! Well, I’ve got to get going!”

Dustin was eager for the vendor to go and practically shooed him away.

“What’s the problem with dragon scale plate?” Gaimon asked. “I thought you just liked red dragons. You aren’t going to have trouble if we have to kill this black dragon for Shok’ragal, are you?”

“Not to worry,” Dustin answered with a shrug. “After all, dragons fight and even kill each other. I’m just not too keen on wearing the skins of my opponents. The only trophy I take home from battle is my enemy’s wife.”

Gaimon and Nock looked at each other with slight confusion.

“So, you’ll be taking the dragon’s wife home as a trophy?” the elf asked slowly.

“Not exactly…” Dustin responded. Then changing the subject, “So anyway, what have you two been up to?”

Nock briefly alluded to his poisons and mentioned the dagger that he was still hoping to get. Then Gaimon told about their encounter with Edwin. He handed the vial over to Asmodeus.

“Hmm… I don’t have Detect Magic prepared. Dustin?”

“Mayhaps, we pour it down someone’s throat, just to see what happens,” Nock suggested. The group had noticed a marked improvement in his Common speech after spending so much time in their company.

“Well it’s definitely magic,” Dustin pronounced after casting the spell.

This piqued the interest of Asmodeus and Nock. They discussed returning to see this Edwin, but the shadows were already lengthening as it grew toward dusk. There was no need to risk being in the wrong end of town late at night, and it was cold besides. So they happily took Dustin up on his suggestion to return to more comfortable lodging.

* * *

The next few days went by with still no sign of the demon’s contact. Asmodeus continued to make some discrete inquiries, but to no avail. Gaimon was growing increasingly restless. It was nearly a month now since his last good bout of violence and sparring with Dustin didn’t satisfy his need for blood. Besides, the sorcerer was much more concerned with spending his times in taverns and the beds of young women.

Nock’s mind dwelt upon the Assassin’s Dagger, but he was wary about being conned, or worse, buying a cursed weapon. Despite the human’s tendency to still accidentally refer to him as a halfling, Nock brought Dustin along to cast a spell to detect whether the item was actually magical or not. He even went so far as to follow the dwarf home after he closed shop.

In the end, he discovered that the dagger was legitimate but stolen. That explained why the dwarf seemed so nervous and anxious to sell it. Not having any qualms about stolen goods, Nock eventually decided to purchase the blade. Once bought, he kept it close to him during the day while he performed and toyed with it in the evenings, getting used to it’s heft and feel.

Asmodeus spent long hours at Items Arcana. One of their offerings was making spellbooks available for copying. The wizard eagerly set into the task of magical study. It was something he found very enjoyable. He delighted in making little discoveries or realizing new connections within the arcane writings. He was prone to grow visibly excited during such discoveries and occasionally vocalized an ‘ah’, ‘yes’, or even a small cheer. Thus the hours seemed to fly by and Melinda’s assistant would have to kick him out after dark when they were locking up the shop.

The wizard thanked Melinda profusely each day, but the woman just waved him off. Asmodeus soon discovered that she was a crabby lady who preferred work to companionship. Still, he thought it wise to make a friend or ally of her, so he continued his pleasantries. When he offered to get her lunch he was told, “That’s what assistants are for.”

But despite her standoffish behavior, he found that he was able to get her to open up over the subject of the University. In this matter, at least, they were kindred spirits. Nevertheless, most of Asmodeus’ time was spent at the little desk at the back of the shop where he studied and wrote in his spellbook. Melinda and her assistants were quite busy in crafting a Ring of Force Shield for Gaimon.

* * *

The day after Asmodeus had successfully copied his second spell, Melinda forced him to take a break and get out of her hair. So the wizard was enjoying a relaxing day in a tavern of Dustin’s choice while playing cards with Gaimon and Nock. The sorcerer had played a few hands, but then had wandered off to the bar.

Dustin returned a while later with a look of excitement. “They say a caravan just arrived in bad shape. A black dragon attack, they say. Rumor is that the Black Matron is to blame! Let’s go check it out!”

Not long thereafter, the group was standing on the side of the main road near the fort. The wagons and carts of the caravan were in bad condition, but the people looked even worse. They were haggard and obviously tired. Many were wearing torn clothing and bandages.

Soldiers from the fort were trying to help the people of the caravan and keep onlookers at bay. A few merchants who apparently had business with this caravan were yelling and distressed over the situation. One woman in particular had grabbed a short man by the collar. She caught Gaimon’s attention because he thought he recognized her.

Moving closer, he was more and more sure. “Orrenette?”

The half-elf turned turned her head toward Gaimon, brushing her long black hair out of the way. “Gaimon?” she asked. “Is that you?”

Enter Orrenette. Welcome.

Asmodeus had a successful Charm Person on McFarland, but failed the CHA check needed to get more info from the man.

Asmodeus was able to find and purchase a Ring of Minor Spell Storing. There was no Ring of Force Shield readily available, but Items Arcana is crafting one for you; it will be ready in 6 days (they’ve already been working on it for a few days now.) Wands of Cure Light Wounds are available — just pay and mark it down on your sheet if you purchase one.

Asmodeus has paid for the first two spells and has finished copying them: Resist Energy and Displacement. He hasn’t started on the third yet.

I had forgotten that Nock needs smaller weapons. But I don’t want to hassle with it now… just assume that he can use those weapons, or that he was able to exchange them for smaller versions in town. The Assassin’s Dagger turned out legitimate, so he bought that as well. Just mark off the required 10,302 gp.

Now is the time for introducing Orrenette to the group. What will your characters do or say?

From now on, I’ll do my posts in 2 parts. One for my characters, and one for Orrenette (Noctua).

I’ve “paid” for everything and updated the character sheets, including the Ring for Gaimon, even though he doesn’t have it yet. Karasu, may I clean up and delete the loot from the google doc?

Gaimon and Asmodeus:
Gaimon will pause, unsure how to proceed. The wizard will prompt him.

“Gaimon, care to introduce us?” The elf will start.

“Everybody, this is Orrenette. She’s” he’s not sure whether to call her a friend or not, ”. . . well, we met at the Shadow Circus. We both worked for Penumbra and,” then he’ll smile, “I trained her.” He looks at Orrenette. “Is the Shadow Circus in town?”

Asmodeus would introduce himself, amused that he’s even encountered someone from Gaimon’s past. He’ll definitely be playing nice and shake her hand instead of being standoffish, as he might usually be. “If Gaimon trained you, then you’ve been trained well.”

Things Gaimon would ask her:
1. What brings you to Fort Hamden?
2. Are you keeping up on your training?

The wizard would ask if she has business with this caravan that appears to have been attacked by the Black Matron. Why is she so incensed with that short man?

Gaimon wasn’t sure how to proceed at first, but as they talk he warms up to her more, asks where she’s staying, how she’s been. If Dustin hits on her the elf will immediately grow protective. (First draft of this post said “when” Dustin hits on her, not “if,” haha. But I suppose I ought to let Karasu make that decision.) He would be open to a meeting later under better circumstances. The consoling drink idea in the Orrenette post is a good one.

Orenette will drop Bruno, glower at him, saying something about finding him later. From her, with her shadow dancing, it’s a bit more of a threat than a promise. It’s more because she’s angry and frustrated than because she means any harm to the man. She will find him later to get details about the amulet, and perhaps the attack or even dragon. If one has to come back empty handed, the excuse should be as detailed as possible- information is important too. Besides, it’ll delay the journey back, always a plus.

She’ll answer Gaimon as honestly as possible, but, because his friends are around, her answers might be a bit evasive about what she’s doing here. “Running an errand for Penumbra” is probably as close as she’ll go at this point. When she gets more comfortable, and sees their plans might help her do her task and avoid going northward for a while, she’ll be more forth coming about why she’s here. She will make a point that she is Noctua now, probably not wanting to explain about her given name. Ignoring the unpleasant past is her way of dealing with it. She’ll do the polite thing, ask Gaimon the usual questions (how have you been, what are you up to, etc.), and meet everyone.

She’s going to be a bit antsy- she’s just learned her plan is falling apart. Catching up with an old friend is a distraction at this point, when she wants to find a new tactic. However, Gaimon was important to her, so she’ll try to set her current anxieties aside for a chat. She’d be more inclined to have a long catch-up conversation after she’s had time to lose hope over the current scheme. She’s not inclined to stay long right now. Unless they say something to catch her interest, it’ll be a short visit, – she’ll have a longer one with Gaimon, probably with a consoling drink, later.

Oh, you can be sure that Dustin will try to hit on her. But he’s going to bide his time for a moment. At the next available opportunity to talk with Gaimon alone, he’ll sidle up next to him and drill him for information on Noctua: “See, I have this rating system. On a scale of one to twenty, your friend out there is a fifteen, well worth my time.”

Even Nock will react positively toward her, though not at all romantic and in no way obvious. He has a natural proclivity toward rogues and shadowy figures. Plus, he can see her elven features, satiating his biases. As far as what he’ll actually do: just ask the question on everyone’s mind: “So, where’s this contact of yorn?”

Orrenette dropped the man in a heap. Glowering over him, she muttered something about finding him again later. Then she turned with a practiced smile back toward Gaimon and his companions who had approached with curiosity.

Gaimon paused for a moment, unsure how to proceed. Asmodeus prompted him, “Gaimon, care to introduce us?”

“Right. Everybody, this is Orren—”

“I’m Noctua,” she interrupted. Then while extending a hand to Asmodeus in a graceful fashion, “Pleased to meet you.”

Amused that he’d encountered someone from Gaimon’s past, the wizard put off his normal standoffish attitude, played nice, and shook the woman’s hand.

“Uh, okay. This is Noctua. She’s…” Gaimon stammered then paused, unsure whether to call her a friend or not. “Well, we met when I was working at the Shadow Circus. We both worked for Penumbra and I trained her.” The elf finished his sentence with a smile on his face.

“If Gaimon trained you then you’ve been trained well. I’m Asmodeus, a wizard and friend of Gaimon’s.”

“Noctua, this is Nock and Dustin Ashe,” Gaimon said pointing to the other two companions.

The gnome nodded slightly in a friendly gesture. Dustin took Noctua’s hand, but instead of shaking he kissed it lightly while giving one of his more charismatic looks. He had been eying the woman and found her fairly attractive. She wasn’t the most gorgeous creature he’d laid eyes on, but he liked her half-elven features and jet black hair.

Noctua was flattered by this gesture and handsome face. But Gaimon was unamused. The elf immediately grew protective and gave Dustin a quick glare. The sorcerer stepped back, biding his time and not wanting to provoke the warrior’s violent streak.

“Is the Shadow Circus in town?” Gaimon asked. “I haven’t seen or heard word about it.”

“No, they’re in Jenocia. I’m just here running an errand for Penumbra.”

“I take it that short guy had something to do with your errand?”

“Yeah, Bruno was supposed to keep an eye on things but instead messed them up.”

“He didn’t look like much of a fighter,” Asmodeus commented. “They say that a black dragon attacked the caravan.”

Noctua shrugged dismissively and replied, “Penumbra doesn’t like excuses much, be they dragons or giants. But what about you?” she asked Gaimon, changing the subject. “How have you been? What are you doing here in Fort Hamden? More mercenary work?”

“I’ve been fine,” Gaimon answered. “Asmodeus here mostly keeps me involved in interesting work. Werewolves, golems, dragons; that sort of thing. That’s why we’re here actually. There’s somebody here who has a job for us regarding getting an item from a black dragon, if we can find him.”

At this Nock piped up to ask the question that had been on his mind while they’d been idly waiting around town. “Where is this contact of yorn?”

Asmodeus scowled. “I wish I knew. I thought that he would have contacted us by now.”

“Are you keeping up on your training?” Gaimon asked Noctua.

The half-elf had started to grow visibly antsy. She was looking around and had lost attention. Her plans were falling apart and she needed time to sort things out. But she turned her attention back to Gaimon and answered, “Yes, I’m trying to at least. But the Slevain Sisters have different ideas about training than you did.”

Nock had climbed up upon a nearby crate. The gnome sat there toying with his new dagger hidden under his cloak and was muttering something about whether Asmodeus would ever find the contact.

The wizard frowned as he looked on his short ally. He’s right though. I have no idea who we’re even looking for. In the past I always relied on Killashandra for these demonic matters.

Dustin pulled up next to Nock and gave him a pat on the back. “Don’t worry, I’m sure we can find a beautiful distraction that’s just your size. Besides, Shok’ragal’s messenger found us easily enough back in Fallerun. Maybe the plane of fire is just a busy place.”

As Dustin said this, Nock noticed a figure in the crowd suddenly turn and look at the group. The gnome pointed the bald man out to the group. The figure was dressed in a tunic of gray and black and wore a dull breastplate. A mace hung from his belt. Breaking away from talking with someone with the caravan, the man quickly approached the group.

Nock gripped his dagger, and Gaimon also tensed up in preparation for a possible fight. Asmodeus ran his mind over his prepared spells and wondered who this bald man might be. Noctua was just about ready to slip away. Dustin looked on with only mild curiosity.

“You should be careful, very careful about the names you speak,” the man said quietly once he was close enough. “Names have power. Yes. And you wouldn’t want the Knights Justicar overhearing a name like that. No. Not these days.”

“And who might you be?” Asmodeus asked the stranger.

“I am Cornelius. And you, you must be Asmodeus. I was told to be on the lookout for you. Come, we should talk. But not here. It isn’t safe, you know. It isn’t safe to discuss the kinds of things that we need to discuss.”

It appears that you’ve found your contact; or rather he found you.

I suspect that Nock, Dustin, Asmodeus, and Gaimon would follow this man to find out about Shok’ragal’s dragon quest. But I’m not so sure about Noctua. I’d prefer it if her curiosity would be aroused enough for her to go along with them (especially since Gaimon said something about getting an item from a black dragon). But if she really just wouldn’t go along with it, then she’ll probably disappear from the narration for a little while and we’ll pull her back in when she meets up with Gaimon for a friendly drink.

Also, I haven’t forgotten about Dustin’s 15/20 remark. It just didn’t seem like the right time yet. We’ll save that one for later.

What will you do next?

“You’re a hard man to find, Cornelius,” the wizard will say. “Where do you suggest we go?”

Asmodeus will motion to the group to follow.

Noctua will grab Gaimon’s arm, “The black dragon job?”

The elf will nod. “Why?”

She’ll pause. “I’ll tell you later, but I’d like to hear more about this dragon.”

Gaimon will look at Asmodeus, who will nod that she can come and then turn to follow Cornelius.

Nock and Dustin fall in rank behind Asmodeus. Dustin only has eyes for Noctua right now. Nock, still gripping his dagger, only has his eyes on their contact.

“You’re a hard man to find, Cornelius,” the wizard replied. “Where do you suggest we go?”

“I have a good place. Underground. Come.”

Asmodeus motioned for the group to follow. Dustin hesitated a bit, torn between leaving sight of a new-found beauty and hearing about dragons. But this dilemma was solved for him. As Gaimon turned to say goodbye to his acquaintance and offer to have drinks later, Noctua grabbed hold of his arm.

“The black dragon job?” she asked with a glance over at Cornelius.

The elf nodded. “Why?”

After a brief pause she answered, “I’ll tell you later, but I’d like to hear more about this dragon.”

Gaimon looked over to Asmodeus who nodded approval. With an air of importance, Noctua followed Cornelius right next to Asmodeus. Dustin stayed behind just a bit so that he could watch her as they walked. Gaimon was bringing up the rear, so Dustin took the opportunity to drill the elf for information on this lovely half-elf.

“See, I have this rating system,” he said. “On a scale of one to twenty, your friend there is a fifteen, well worth my time.”

Gaimon just shook his head with disapproval and kept walking.



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