The Clutch of Verthandi

Building Relationships

The Crusaders begin the arduous process of winning the trust of the Gold Quarter vampires

After briefly resting in Ordin’s private chambers, the Scarlet Crusaders ask their newfound vampiric ally about how best they could climb the ranks of the Gold Quarter bureaucracy, hoping to then use Ordin and Lady Agatha’s knowledge of the cursed city to work their way into the Diamond Quarter, where both their daunting quarries awaited them. Ordin recommends that the “treasure hunters” demonstrate their usefulness to the vampires’ cause by intentionally getting “caught in the act” of harassing the other two factions: the dark folk of the Iron Quarter, and the derro of the Silver Quarter. Ordin mentions overhearing about a planned attack on a derro resource-gathering party, and suggests that the adventurers learn more about the skirmish and beat the vampires to the punch.

Raleria and Rognar attempted to ask around the vampire camp for more information about the attack, but the undead are less than forthcoming with the intruders. Niamh and Eoleo are more successful in their reconnaissance, sneaking around the Gold Quarter and eavesdropping on spawn commanders to piece together where the attack will take place. Together they determine that the derro are collecting supplies from an old textiles mill along the border of the Silver and Gold Quarters, roughly two and a half hours from the vampire headquarters.

The Crusaders set out for the target (with their dominated minion in tow), but are briefly distracted en route by an overpowering smell of cinnamon emanating from a relatively intact warehouse. By consulting Rognar’s familiarity with dwarven cities and Blackbarrow’s journal, the party discerns that warehouses filled with spices were commonly used as covers for illegal opium trade. The group explores the warehouse interior, and finds not only a wealth of valuable spices, but also an underground opium den haunted by the psychic echoes of opium addiction. Raleria and Niamh fall prey to the fell spirits’ influence, but the effect is quickly dispelled with some charges from Eoleo’s wand. The party then decides to leave the spices here for now—valuable as they may be aboveground, the market for spices amongst their blood-drinking comrades is likely low—but take with them some scattered coins and the remaining opium stores, in the event that the vampires have some interest in the drug.

Following their detour, the Crusaders reach their destination: a textile mill presently guarded by three darklings and a handful of derro. Niamh, Owen, and Eoleo are able to sneak ahead to a window overlooking the building’s interior, but Rognar is spotted in his efforts to reach a tactically sound position. Niamh thinks quickly and guides her horse around the back of the building to the warehouse door, blocking the passage from any escape attempts; meanwhile, Eoleo lobs his last alchemist’s fire into the center of the room, setting a crate ablaze and revealing the derro working inside. Two of the darklings begin a vicious assault on the unarmored Julian, while Raleria hangs back and blasts darkling and derro alike with a swift barrage of aggressive magic. Rognar engages the third darkling, first striking it with his cold iron throwing axes before drawing Eadrom and closing for melee.

The darklings pose a significant threat to the surface folk, attacking body and equipment alike with feystone battleaxes and icy magic from within their zones of eldritch silence, but the mad derro start to panic: the three at the east entrance fall quickly to Raleria’s fireballs, and the ones inside see the burning crate and the mysterious four-legged creature blocking the exit as agents of divine wrath. Some try to escape past the vicious battle-trained horse, but even those who tumble by him fall quickly to Niamh’s marksmanship. Others take shots at the horse from a distance with crude crossbows, but the horse’s barding mixed with his rider’s agility and skill make the attacks negligible.

Eventually the derro lose all hope, and try to flee via the far exit, where Julian has fallen to the fey’s brutal weapons as the dwarf and half-elf press their assault. Eoleo cuts the fleeing derro off at the pass—knowing that the mission will be in vain if any live to tell their masters of the surface dwellers’ presence in the accursed city—by entrapping them in a field of black tentacles, which make short work of the derro and Rognar’s adversary (much to Rognar’s distaste). Eoleo then catches Raleria’s remaining darkling (the other having been incinerated by her barrage of fireballs) closing in on Raleria, and blasts it with a glitterdust spell to assist the sorceress. As the battle draws to a close, Raleria takes to the air to finish off the fleeing darkling with scorching rays, Niamh kills some of the remaining derro with arrows, and Eoleo entraps the last of the mad creatures with a tanglefoot bag. The strike is a rousing success for the Crusade, with the liability of the dominated witch removed and the only survivor a captive derro.

With time to spare before the vampires arrive, Rognar takes a moment to interrogate the prisoner (with the assistance of Eoleo’s tongues spell) while Eoleo and Niamh search the premises. Both endeavors are largely futile but at least marginally helpful: the building hides a handful of silver pieces, while the mad derro finally does let slip that his “secret weapon” missions involve “getting capsules of life force from the Sculptor.” The creature gives no hint as to what the Sculptor—or his craft—might be, but he does mark its workshop on the adventurers’ map of the city. Shortly after, the intended skirmishers arrive, taking their prisoner and unexpected comrades back to HQ.

Word of the party’s mission soon gets back to the vampire elite, as does the opium the group salvaged from the warehouse, both of which help to elevate their status amongst the undead. The adventurers return to Ordin with news of their success, as well as questions about who or what the Sculptor might be. The old vampire doesn’t yield too much useful information: the place marked on the map was indeed once an actual sculptor’s studio, where the craftsman once built golems for commission during Dragonhelm’s hayday, and the derro likely meant that this Sculptor crafts soul gems to power their night hag mistresses’ most dangerous spells, but any questions as to the enigmatic figure’s current identity remain unanswered.

What the Crusaders do know is that they have identified a crucial resource for the derro faction, and that eliminating it would likely cripple the Silver Quarter’s influence in the city. Of course, such a task might be daunting with what little information the party presently possesses, so Ordin also gave them the option of trying to retrieve onyxes for Agatha’s animate dead spells from the mining district in the Iron Quarter. Either way, the party is well on its way to earning the respect and trust of the Dragonhelm vampires.

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