Nick Nichols

Clojure Developer and Dungeon Master

The Five Claws

Krug ‘n’ Krew, along with several of the other able-bodied Harpers spend a few hours dealing with the immediate fallout of the attack: tending to the wounded, reuniting families, and distributing supplies. Later in the day, once the immediate are is secure, they begin investigating for any clues that may lead to the attackers whereabouts. Thaelen begins slowly casting Detect Magic as his compatriots, aided by a few of those remaining, scan the grounds. Krug and a muscle bound dwarf begin eyeing each other and flexing, Jack struggles to overturn the debris and over-exerts himself, and Tlareg pokes around several of the corpses looking for survivors. As Thaelen begins to see the ebb and flow of the Fold, he notices a speck of familiar energy not too far away. One of the volunteers, a young halfling woman, is poking around the epicenter of the attack. Sensing the powers of his own mystic school, Evocation, he approaches her.

“Hey, friend. I’m sensing something pretty dangerous around here, have you found anything?”

“Maybe. What’s it to ya?”

“We’re trying to figure out what is going on here. We had a bit of a run in with these guys earlier.”

The halfling begins rubbing her fingers together in a small, circular pattern, “Is that so?”

Understanding the nuances of human communication, Thaelen produces a bottle of whiskey, “It is. Also, there’s something glowing with evocation magic in your pocket, so it’s probably safer for an… expert to handle.”

She pushes the bottle aside and produces a small, red bead with a pronounced crack running down the center. Thaelen looks at it for a moment, but the distinct lack of blood in his body leaves him answerless. They agree to take it back to the others, who have started to regroup. Thaelen hands the bead to Arminius, and asks him to identify it.

“Hmm, this is not of a divine origin, and does not bear the stench of Tiamat. In the past, the Harpers have turned to a local expert for such matters. His name is Ioctal, and you can find the Ivory Tower he works from in the District of the Lords. Let them know you’re operating under Captain Osterlen’s orders, and you should have no trouble getting in. While you’re there, could you have him take a look at this as well?”

Arminius digs through his pack and produces a torn segment of cloth that slowly changes colors from blue to green. Thaelen, nearly colorless himself, takes it without a word. Oddly cognizant, Krug asks if they know who is behind the attack.

“I assume it to be the work of the Five Claws- a band of Tiamat’s followers here in Ushazan. The metallic dragons are a symbol of everything they despise. As Lysanderoth watched over this plane for over a millennium, this would be the perfect time and place to send a message. I plan on visiting my old mentor, Patron Ytraz to see if he has been granted any divine clarity in this matter. Once you’ve finished your business with Ioctal, come find me at the Temple of the Platinum Dragon.”

With their plans agreed to, the party begins making their way into the walled city of Whitestone. As they push through the dense and frantic crowds of the District of the Commons, they see thousands of people scrambling to find food, shelter, and an escape from the chaos. Soldiers from across Eibellion stand guard, but represent their individual nations alone. Dignitaries and nobles hide between their armored ranks, leaving their less fortunate countrymen to the scrapes, thieves, and swindlers of Pebram’s Row. Recognizing the dangers of opportunists, Thaelen and the halfling keep their hands on their coin purses.

After meeting one of the guards they had assisted earlier, the group is permitted entrance into the District of the Lords. While everything remains in disarray, the reduced crowds make travel bearable. With some breathing room, Thaelen begs the party to go to the nearest tavern- but not to refill his supplies. An uncharacteristically worried expression crosses his face, and the break from his usual character gives everyone enough pause to agree.

They duck into the Golden Mare and find a table pressed in to a corner. Krug retrieves a few flagons from the bartender, and the rest lean in to avoid being overheard.

Thaelen stare into the middle of the table, seemingly staring through it. “I’ve seen that cloth before- the kind that changes color. I found some work in Sharn, somewhere in the Empire. Long story short, a group of cultists had taken a hostage and we were hired to investigate. They were hiding out in a theatre, and had an altar to Tiamat as one of the props. One thing lead to another when the fight broke out, and in the middle of it all one of my crossbow bolts ended up hitting a butler who was laying on it. The cultists that were there are probably the same ones here. I don’t know much about it, but I know it’s called Shimmerweave, and it was worth enough to buy my way out.”

The party sits in awed silence, as the faint scent of burning parchment catches their notes. Jack, detecting less than savory behavior, has furiously recorded Thaelen’s every word and action. The halfling nods along, “So, what you’re saying is that these cultists have even more of this. Plus, we’d be helping to root out an international organization. I bet the queen would reward us handsomely.”

Thaelen agrees, “Surely she would. Actually, I never caught your name, and I never work with anyone without knowing their name.”

As a single tear rolls down Jack’s face, she answers, “You can call me Birdie.”

The dwarf Krug had been oogling earlier gives a sweeping thumbs up, “And they call me Clegane.” Everyone else introduces themselves in turn, and begins debating how much pay they’ll receive. Over the next few rounds, they make plans to use Krug’s false decree of nobility to introduce Birdie as a long-lost relative of the Queen. Thaelen will act as her butler, and charm anyone that begins to become suspicious. From there, they will barter with the Queen as highly skilled adventurers for better pay.

A few quick words later, and they find themselves in the ornate a closely guarded Cloudtop District. As the large gates close behind them, they see a familiar face walking towards an ornate cathedral. “Wonderful, you came back from Ioctal quickly. What were you able to learn?”

A moment of silence falls over the party, before Krug grunts “We skipped that.”

Arminius sighs heavily, “Well, in any case, I suppose you can come with me to see Patron then. He may be able to answer some of your questions. Follow me.”

Arminius leads them across an immaculate garden towards the cathedral’s dark gates seated beneath several beautiful stained glass windows. As the doors swing free, several priests begin making their way out with bandages and food. The church is overflowing with various attendants, paladins, priests, and worshippers organizing relief efforts. A calm, yet heavily aged voice is organizing them from one of the upper balconies. They follow Arminius up a flight of stairs, and meet an elderly golden dragonborn bearing ornate robes.

“This is Patron Ytraz, a deacon of my faith. These adventurers are investigating everything that happened today. We were hoping to share in your wisdom and any divine insight you may have had.”

“You already know who it was, Arminius. The work of Tiamat can’t hide from these eyes of mine. I imagine you would also recognize the mark fo the Five Claws too. The only real question left is who helped them evade our defenses.”

Out of curiosity, the group asks what the Five Claws are.

“A bunch of cultists that want to see a five headed dragon back on the Material Plane. They used to be scattered, but everyone, including them, has been on edge lately. The miscreants have hands in just about everything too.”

“I agree. With their connections, they’re formidable and well-equipped. They had some arcane contraptions that I assume were smuggled in. We’ll need to visit Pebram’s Row.”

Fully agreed, the party makes their way out of the Temple of the Platinum Dragon and immediately heads towards Ioctal’s tower. An open door greets them to an almost empty room with an ornate stone floor and a small orb resting on a pedestal. As they approach the orb, the floor springs to life and raises them towards a small spiral staircase. Feeling invited, they walk up towards a large, neatly organized arcane laboratory. A figure in ornate white robes with golden trim floats between piles of books and mysterious vials. A hollow, yet warm voice fills their minds, “Greetings. What brings you to my Ivory Tower?”

He turns to greet them, but the low lighting casts a shadow over Ioctal’s face, completely obscuring it from view. Thaelen, in awe of the resources before him, is the first to speak, “Uhhh, we found this and wanted to see where it came from.”

After a few minutes of examination, Ioctal explains that they are in possession of a cracked Bead of Fireball. The wizard assumes the rest was detonated as part of the attack, and a structural flaw in this particular bead kept it from firing as expected. He offers to dispel any of the lingering magic, as it isn’t stable; however, Thaelen keeps it while chuckling to himself. Most of the party stares in wide-eyed horror, and Jack notes this down as well. Ioctal then explains his protections at the Cerulean Lyceum would have alerted him, so it must have been smuggled in some time earlier. Knowing this, he recommends they search out any local fences and ne’er-do-wells, as it would have been difficult to accomplish with such high security present without local contacts.

The party thanks him for a time, and tries to leave, but Thaelen asks Ioctal about his alma mater: the College of Izzet in Abberion. Ioctal has a long working relationship with the college; however, he has little memory of the past. In general, he has found it to be a solid program, and much of their research has uncovered major breakthroughs. Thaelen thanks him for the info and offers a swig of ill-begotten wine. Ioctal declines, stating it would do little for his current form. Thaelen, bewildered by the concept of abstinence, asks why. Ioctal pulls his hood back, revealing empty robes, and apologizes for any social transgression he may have committed. The party, thoroughly freaked out, returns to the platform and descends back to the city streets.

< Previous Chapter: A Simple Job | Next Chapter: The Thief and The Knight >