The Alexandrian

Ptolus - In the Shadow of the Spire



October 21st, 2007
The 27th Day of Amseyl in the 790th Year of the Seyrunian Dynasty


In the morning, with a 6,000 gp pay-off burning in their pockets, the group headed back to the Hammersong Vaults to put a lot of that money into their lockboxes.

Ranthir, however, had been struck by a thought: Since the Hammersong Vaults was essentially the only bank in town, it seemed there was a good chance that they might have stored something here between the time they came to Ptolus and the morning they woke up with amnesia.

After they had secured their gold, Tee approached one of the Hammersong dwarves on duty. “How would we find out if we had rented a space here?

“You mean the lockboxes you just went to?”

“No, another space.”

“… wouldn’t you know if you had rented a space?”

“Humor me.”

“We have a log of all our vaults and lockboxes. If you showed proper identification, we could look through that and find out if you had any other accounts.”

All of them – even Tor, who was increasingly confused by all of this – presented their identification papers and waited while the logs were checked in a back room.

When the man came back out, he was holding a slip of paper and had a frown on his face. “We do, in fact, have a record of a vault rented in the names of Agnarr, Dominic, Elestra, Ranthir, and Tithenmamiwen. We do not have any record of another account held by Master Tor.”

“How would we get into that vault?” Tee asked.

“You don’t have a key?”

While the others were focused on all this talk of paperwork and accounts, Agnarr’s eyes were scanning the room. He noticed a dwarf standing by the door to the backroom, studying all of them while making arcane gestures with his hands. “Who’s that?” he demanded.

“Hey!” Tee shouted. “What are you doing?”

The dwarf just smiled at them, looked at the official who was helping them, shook his head, and then went through the door into the back room.

“What was that all about?”

“Just checking for your security,” the official explained.

In any case, without a key it turned out that they would all have to sign a document testifying their right to the vault. They would then have to wait at least 30 days and then submit to a magical verification of identity before they could gain access to the vault they had apparently rented. They agreed and began signing the necessary papers.

But when the illiterate Agnarr made his “X” upon the contract, the official’s exasperation returned. “Sign it properly!”

Agnarr put a second “X” on the paper.

The official showed them the slip of paper with their original signatures: Agnarr’s signature was written in beautifully scripted calligraphy. (Tee took the opportunity to note that they had apparently rented the vault on the 30th day of Du’elseyl, the day before they had rented their rooms at the Ghostly Minsterl.) “He can’t produce his proper signature?”

This made it necessary for Agnarr to undergo an immediate magical verification of identity, forcing them to pay an additional fee of 50 gold pieces.

Agnarr, accompanied by Tee, was taken to a back room. In a circle of magical light which compelled him to speak truthfully, he was asked several questions to verify his identification.

Finally satisfied (more or less), the Hammersong dwarf told them they could return in 30 days, at which time a duplicate key would be magically created and they would be allowed access to the vault.


Tor had respectfully (and wisely) kept his silence during all of this, but as soon as they had left the Hammersong Vaults, he wanted to know what all of that was about.

The rest of them realized it was time to tell Tor the truth: The entire tale of their amnesia, and the many mysteries surrounding it, poured out.

They admitted that they were particularly interested to discover why Tor had been sent to them… and who this “Ritharius” might be.

“Do you think I might have been sent here as bait?” Tor asked.

“No, I don’t think so.” Tee said.

“Lord Zavere told me he was an associate of his,” Dominic said. “And that we could trust you if you were sent by him.”

Tor nodded with at least some degree of satisfaction. The thought that he might have been being used in some way had struck his honor hard, but this vouchsafe eased at least some of his doubts.


By the time they got back to the Ghostly Minstrel, the party had already decided – after being prompted by Tor – to visit the Row Bathhouse one street over on Tavern Row. These plans changed slightly, however, after Tee popped inside to grab a fresh outfit. On her way through the lobby, Tellith gave her a letter addressed to all six of them. It was an invitation sealed with purple wax impressed with a diamond-shaped shard:

My friends—

We hope that you will join us in celebrating the Harvesttime at a private party to be hosted at 8 o’clock in the evening at Castle Shard.

Most sincerely,

Lord Zavere and Lady Rill

P.S. Mistress Tee, it would much please me if you would see to it that Master Agnarr was… properly attired. My eternal thanks… -Z

Tee couldn’t believe it. Castle Shard’s parties were famous throughout the city. She had grown up listening to tales of them.

All of them agreed that their current, well-worn outfits would not be appropriate attire for this affair. Elestra was satisfied with a few of the nicer outfits she had, but Tee – who had taken the care to have some very nice clothes for herself – had nothing of the quality that would impress the guests at an event in the Nobles’ Quarter. She said that she would head to the Jade Woman later, and that the men should go to Nestor’s for appropriate attire. (Both of these being posh establishments in the Nobles’ Quarter.)


Tee, Tor, Elestra, and Agnarr headed to the Row Bathhouse. While Tee, Tor, and Elestra headed inside, Agnarr demurred: “I’ve already had one bath this year.”

As they headed inside Tor looked at the other two, “Only one bath…?”

Tee nodded her head. “You should have seen how hard I had to fight to get him to wash up when he was covered in centipede ichor.”

A young couple, who apparently ran the bathhouse, greeted them and looked them up and down. “You must be from the Ghostly Minstrel?”

While he waited, Agnarr became aware of two men who were hanging around the area. Not only were they tarrying for an unusually long time, they also seemed to be keeping an eye on him.

Agnarr abruptly turned around and headed into the Row Bathhouse. The young couple greeted him.

“Are my friends here?”

“They might be. Who are they?”

“All right, could you tell them that we’re being watched?”


“They’re in danger! Tell them!” Agnarr thought about it for a moment. “Do you have any way that I could change the way I look?”

They looked him up and down… “We could give you a bath?”

They led Agnarr in to the back room. They bathed him… deloused him… gave him a shave… bathed him again… washed his clothes… magically dried them…

By the time they were done, Agnarr looked completely different. He emerged into the main room just as Tor (looking much more presentable) was finishing up. Tee barely recognized him.

Agnarr quickly told the others about the two men he had seen outside and gave them brief descriptions. They decided to go separate ways as they left the bathhouse and see if they could split the two men.

Tor, who had brought his horse, simply walked out the door, mounted up, and headed toward the Nobles’ Quarter. The two men didn’t follow him, apparently unwilling to pursue a mounted man on foot.

Tee left next and headed back towards the Ghostly Minstrel. The larger of the two watchers – a mammoth of a man standing nearly seven feet tall and weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pounds – began following her.

Tee belled the cat all the way back to Delver’s Square, and then hung out around the fountain in the middle of the square. She watched as the large man moved around the Square, pretending to window shop.

She finally got bored with this and walked over to him. As she drew near, she saw that he was wearing a ring identifying him as belonging to the deot of the Balacazars. Her frown deepened. She stopped a few feet away, crossed her arms, and stared at him. It took him a few moments to notice her, at which point he stumbled over his idle whistling, stared at her for a moment, and then tried to “nonchalantly” go back to staring in the windows.

“Why are you following me?”

“What? I’m not following you!” He tried to go back to his idle whistling.

“You’ve been following me since the bathhouses.”

“I’m just shopping.”

“Really? What are you shopping for?”

“A club.”

Tee looked pointedly at the club hanging from his belt. “Do you need two of them?”

“This one… um… gives me splinters.”

The man tried to leave. Tee followed him.

“What are you doing? Stop following me!”

“I’m not following you, I’m just shopping!”

The man grew increasingly nervous and eventually ran away, escaping from Tee by ducking down an alley.

Tee watched him go and then found a carriage to take her to Iridithil’s Home.

Meanwhile, Elestra had left the Row Bathhouse next. The smaller and swarthier of the two men began following her. Agnarr, watching him go past, slid out of the bathhouse and began following him.

After going a couple of blocks, Elestra ducked into an alley. The man hurried forwards, only to find that Elestra had turned to face him and drawn her rapier.

The man snarled and rushed her, drawing a club from his belt. He took a couple of swings at Elestra, which she easily avoided, but he was so distracted that he failed to notice Agnarr sliding up behind him.

After the first blow to the back of his head, the man spun around: “Who are you?!”

“I’ve cleaned up.”

The man gaped. “The barbarian!”

Agnarr battered the man around with the flat side of his greatsword. And when the man refused to yield and tried to escape, he cried, “For the glory!” and smacked the flaming blade across the man’s face.

Elestra went out to the street and hailed down a carriage. They slipped into the carriage with their “drunk” friend and headed back towards the Ghostly Minstrel. Elestra noted the nasty welt which had been raised across Agnarr’s bicep, the only wound he’d sustained in the tussle, and offered to use her magic to heal it, but Agnarr shrugged her off.

On the way back to the Minstrel their carriage passed by Tee’s. Elestra waved heartily. But Tee, seeing the badly bruised and bloodied man wedged between them, pretended she didn’t know them.

At the Minstrel they bundled the man into Elestra’s room and hog-tied him. Elestra agreed to keep an eye on him while Agnarr headed back up to the Nobles’ Quarter to buy his clothes for the party at Castle Shard.


Ranthir arrived at the City Library, hoping to find out something about Nycedon and the shadowy explosion that had occurred in the North Market a few days before.

His first pass through likely areas of the library yielded no useful results (although he did turn up a very old treatise written by Nycedon regarding the “Diverse Properties of Invisible Servants”), but when he told one of the many bustling librarians what he was looking into she expressed regret because “Master Nycedon had been such a nice old man”.

It turned out that Nycedon had been spending a lot of time recently researching here in the library. The librarian wasn’t sure what his work might have been focusing on, but she thought that the head librarian – an old woman named Nelinda – might have some ideas on the matter.

Ranthir was introduced to Nelinda, who was in the middle of directing a half dozen librarians reorganizing the library’s collection of historical papers. (Apparently Nelinda was constantly obsessed with reorganizing the collections for “maximum effiency”. Ranthir bemoaned the fact that she was far too old for him – which was just another sign that he was doomed to die alone and unloved.)

Nelinda remembered that Nycedon had mentioned to her something about a “Shade Tower”. She was even able to point Ranthir towards the last section of the library Nycedon had been looking at (“Are you sure it hasn’t been reorganized?”), but when Ranthir pursued the matter he wasn’t able to find anything… either the material had been removed, Nycedon hadn’t found anything, or whatever Nycedon had been looking for was escaping Ranthir’s notice.

Ranthir decided to head across Oldtown to the Delver’s Guild Library. Halfway there, however, a man dressed in an eclectic assortment of plate armor materialized directly before him. Ranthir came up short.

Ptolus - The Iron Mage

The man held out his hand and intoned, “Ranthir of Isiltur, know that I am the Iron Mage. And I have a duty for you.”

The Iron Mage held out a golden compass and dropped it into Ranthir’s hand. Then he disappeared.

Ranthir looked around. The entire incident had apparently failed to faze anyone else on the street. “I really hate this town,” he muttered under his breath.

No doubt his opinion of the town was little improved when he finally arrived at the Delver’s Guild Library and met with similarly dismal results in his research.

Still, he had gained the name of “Shade Tower”… even if he had no idea what it meant.


Dominic, meanwhile, had returned to the Temple of Asche. He showed Mand Scheben the note Tee had recovered from Linech’s office the night before.

Mand hypothesized that the “shipments” referred to in the notes were almost certainly deliveries of shivvel… probably large ones. And the reason that Linech hadn’t been able to fulfill the deliveries was that his own private stores of shivvel had been completely depleted.

Who “Urnest” was, Mand had no idea. But the name “Silion” seemed familiar to him… eventually he recalled that she was a lascivious and rather unkempt priest who ran a small and disreputable temple. Probably somewhere down on the Street of the Gods.

Dominic thanked Mand and left a copy of the note with him. Then he headed towards Saches to pick up his own clothes for the party at Castle Shard.

When he arrived there, however, he found the shop closed. This struck him as rather odd, considering that it was the middle of the day, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. He turned his feet back towards Delver’s Square…


Tee arrived at Iridithil’s Home eagerly looking forward to her first day of instruction with Leytha Doraedian. This was a moment that she had been looking forward to for as long as she could remember.

Doraedian received her in his offices, but then led her to a small meditation chamber.

Doraedian: “I have spoken to the other elders of our clan. The leytha are agreed that you have been placed upon a great jalindael. Your soul has been burdened by a mighty responsibility. Thus it has been agreed that you should, many years before your time, begin your instructions in the Dreaming Arts.”

He gestured for her to sit within the pentagram at the center of the chamber.

“What has not been agreed, however, is that the contents of the Book of Secrets should be laid bare before you. But this much should be made known to you: When our ancestors swore fealty to the Silver Towers, their masters – the dragons – were united through the harmonies of the Dragonsong. When the masters fell to their own shadow, the Dragonsong was broken. It is written in the Book of Legends that this breaking was like the end of a dream.”

“It is from our broken knowledge of the Dragonsong that the Arts of the Dreaming have been crafted. And that is why the Arts of the Dreaming are also known among our people as the Dreamsong. And it is the mastery of this song and the craft of its singing in which you are to be instructed.”

“This will not be a quick process nor an easy one. It will not be accomplished within a single day, or even within many days.”

“So let us begin at the beginning: The Dreaming is a realm which lies ‘beneath’ or ‘alongside’ the world as the mortal races know it. It is a wild and dangerous place, an ever-shifting forest whose shadows and glades hold the greatest of wonders. Mortals sometimes reach it, unwittingly, in their hours of deepest dreaming, and it is said to be the place where all dreams are born. In the Dreaming, one may leave a city forged with towering spires of the finest crystal and lose sight of it within three paces, never to see it again. Or one may be tempted by strange, dancing lights, and never wake from their dreams.”

“This is what the Dreaming is in words. But what it is in truth is not so easily expressed. To understand the Dreaming, one must learn to feel the Dreaming. To trust the Dreamsong.”

The rest of Doraedian’s lesson was devoted to entering the Dreaming through a dream trance. Tee struggled with this for more than an hour before her mind suddenly… slid.

She found herself back in the room of ebony and a gold. This time, however, she was all alone. Agnarr was nowhere to be seen. Her attention was drawn to the massive doors of ebony. A rune at the very center of the heavily-carved doors began to grow brighter and brighter. It burned like a fire out of heaven… it burned until it blinded her. And then… Nothing. She awoke back in the meditation chamber with Doraedian. The touch with the Dreaming had been lost.

But Doraedian was overjoyed. He had not expected Tee to touch the Dreaming so quickly. She was displaying a true aptitude for the training and affirming that their decision to accelerate her training had been correct. He questioned her on the particulars of the vision, and asked her to draw him a copy of the rune she had seen (which she did).

Tee continued her work for another two hours, but without further success. She left Doraedian’s physically and mentally exhausted, but extremely happy.



Tor arrived at Nestor’s and was treated with thinly-veiled contempt… until he made it clear exactly what he was looking for and paid for it in hard cash.

As a result, when Agnarr showed up – right around the time that Tor was finishing his measurements and selections – he was treated with slightly more respect (which, given his temperament, was probably for the best).

In the end, Tor purchased a full outfit and several new shirts. Agnarr purchased a single outfit of silk, to be emblazoned with the emblem of the red elk. As the outfits were to be custom-made, they were to return two days later to pick them up.


Tee, meanwhile, was returning to the Ghostly Minstrel. She headed straight to Elestra’s room to see what, exactly, she and Agnarr had gotten themselves involved in.

Elestra let her into the room, revealing the hog-tied thug on the floor, and showed her the Balacazar ring she’d pulled from his finger. Tee slapped him around for awhile until he finally woke up.

Like the other thug, this one tried to deny that he’d been following them.

“Then why did you attack me?” Elestra asked.

Tee held up the Balacazar ring. “Why is he having us followed?”

The thug stammered denials.

“If you don’t tell us, we’ll get the barbarian. He has a habit of biting off ears.”

The thug still didn’t break. Tee was sorely tempted to wait for Agnarr to get back. She wasn’t sure that she’d actually let him bite the thug’s ear off, but she was pretty sure it would be fun to watch him threaten to do it.

In the end, Tee decided it wasn’t worth it. She threw the ring at him and told Elestra to cut his bonds. “Tell him that we haven’t talked to anybody, but we don’t like being followed either.”

The thug got up, rubbing his wrists. He glowered sourly and headed towards the door. Opening it, he turned back and snarled: “You’ll regret this!” He slammed the door behind him.

Tee pursued him, yanking the door open. “Hey!”

The thug ignored her. She was severely tempted to shoot him in the back, but as she stood wrestling with her Agnarr-like temptation he rounded the corner and headed down the stairs.

Tee ducked her head back into the room: “I’m heading up to the Jade Woman. I’ll see you this evening.”


While the rest of the party had a need for new clothes, Elestra’s desire was a better blade. She had a sneaking suspicion that the dead weren’t supposed to be walking around, but since they obviously were she’d like a rapier that would do some good against them.

Asking around the North Market, however, she found the merchants growing reticent whenever she turned the conversation to the possibility of placing an enchantment upon her blade.

What she discovered was that the creation of magical items in Ptolus was tightly controlled by a monopoly known only as the Dreaming Apothecary. Those who attempted to compete with the Apothecary by creating magical items found themselves plagued with strange accidents. (The rumor was that those who didn’t take the hint from their “bad luck” simply disappeared.)

Elestra learned that the Dreaming Apothecary maintained several representatives throughtout the city. Those interested in doing business with the Dreaming Apothecary needed to first contact one of these representatives.

She also learned the name of one of these representatives: Jevicca Nor.


Dominic, meanwhile, had returned to Delver’s Square and stopped by the Bull and Bear Armory to pick up a new shirt of chainmail.

Leaving the Bull and Bear, Dominic saw Brother Fabitor leaving the Ghostly Minstrel with a concerned furrow across his brow. When he saw Dominic, Fabitor hurried over to him.

“Brother Dominic! I have just finished speaking with Marta. She told me that Phon was supposed to work today, but she never arrived. Are the others with you?”

This was exactly what they had all feared. Dominic told Fabitor that the others weren’t here right now, but that he would look into it immediately. As the two of them headed back across Delver’s Square, however, they met Tor and Agnarr coming the other way.

After Dominic quickly filled them in, all of three of them headed towards Phon’s house. (Brother Fabitor returned to the chapel to let Marta know that action was being taken.)

But at Phon’s house they found the door locked and no sign of a struggle.


Even though they lacked any evidence that Helmut was the father of Phon’s child, it was the only lead they had to pursue. (And Tee had often speculated that Helmut might, in fact, be the mysterious Methul Watcher: “Methul” was an anagram of “Helmut”, and Helmut was an astronomer – a Watcher of the skies.)

The three men headed to the Observatory in the Temple District. While Tor and Agnarr watched the many exits to the building, Dominic headed inside.

Dusk was now rapidly becoming night, and he found the astronomers scurrying around the complex, busily preparing for the evening’s observations. He sought out Unosh, the half-elf they had spoken to before. Although Unosh was quite distracted by the preparations, Dominic was able to discover that Helmut had gone on a leave of absence three days earlier. Unosh was able to tell him the location of Helmut’s house – on Limit Street in the western end of the Temple District. Dominic thanked him and left.

Rounding up Tor and Agnarr, Dominic headed towards Helmut’s house. When they got there, they discovered a small house with a partial second story and a glass dome.

They decided the direct approach was best: Dominic went up to the door and knocked on it.

After a few moments, a tall man with blond hair opened the door. They noticed that he had a single black dot tattooed in the middle of his forehead. “Can I help you?”

“Is Helmut home?”

“No, Helmut has left town.”

“Where’s he gone?”

The man frowned. “I’m not sure that’s any of your business.”

“Why are you in his house?”

“I’m here to watch over it while he’s gone. Now, if you don’t have any business here I think we should be going.”

“We’re here because of Phon.”

“Who?” the man asked. But Agnarr saw his eyes dart off to one side. He almost certainly knew who Phon was. The conversation continued for another minute or so, with the man making denials. Then the man tried to close the door in their face.

Agnarr was having none of that, his arm shot past Dominic’s head and thrust the door open, knocking the man backwards. As Agnarr stepped forwards, however, the man murmured a few words under his breath. His hands burst into flames. He lowered them and sprayed the doorway with fire.

Nearly simultaneously, a door on the far side of the room opened and a woman with blond hair and a matching black dot in the middle of her forehead stepped into the room. “Menaster, what’s going on?”

But even as she asked the question, Agnarr was drawing his sword. A moment later the cry of “For the glory!” pierced the air and the flaming greatsword was arcing through the air in a perfect, downward sweep. It cleaved halfway through the top of the man’s skull, passing straight down and through the black dot on his forehead. His blood spattered across the house spirit’s shrine to the left of the door.

“Oh my god! Oh my god! Menaster!” The woman turned and ran, slamming the door shut behind her.

Dominic: “What are you doing?!”

Agnarr: “He was lying about Phon.”

Dominic: “Well, he’s not going to say anything now!”

Agnarr shrugged. “Anything I can do you can undo, right?”

Dominic gaped at him, but knelt besides the mangled corpse. Divine power flowed through his hands and, a moment later, the horrible gash in Menaster’s skull was gone – leaving only a bright, oozing wound.

Menaster came groggily around. “What…? Where…? Wait… You–!”

Agnarr nodded. “Right, now tell us about Phon or I’ll do it again.”

“I don’t know where Phon is!”

“You’re lying again.” Agnarr turned to Dominic. “Check the other door.”

“All right,” Dominic said. “But just don’t kill anybody again.” He headed to the far side of the room and opened the door, finding a long hallway beyond it.

Tor, meanwhile, had sidled into the room and was heading towards the door that the woman had disappeared through. Testing it, he found it locked. A short, sharp kick took care of that problem.

Beyond the now broken door, lay a large room with a sunken couch. The woman had flipped open one of the seats to reveal a concealed compartment, she was struggling to get into her chain shirt. Seeing the door fly open, however, she grabbed for her longbow and shot an arrow haphazardly in Tor’s direction.

Tor easily ducked back behind the doorframe, but the arrow passed through the open door and embedded itself in the wall next to Agnarr’s head.

“We just want to talk,” Tor shouted.

“You killed Menaster!” she cried.

“Menaster’s fine,” Tor said.

“Tell her your fine,” Agnarr said, prodding Menaster with his foot.

“I’m not fine… But I’m alive.”

Menaster tried to use the distraction to cast another spell, but Agnarr was having none of it. The greatsword rose and fell, cleaving the skull once again with perfect symmetry.

“Menaster! No!” The woman dropped her bow, took up her longsword, and charged. Tor grabbed the freely swinging door and used it as an impromptu shield. He and the woman both fought for position, trying to bring their blades to bear.

Agnarr ended the stalemate by striding over and thrusting his entire sword through the door. The woman gasped in pain and fell back allowing Tor to push through the doorway and pursue her.

Dominic, meanwhile, had opened the door at the far end of the hall and found a small library. Hearing the commotion back in the main room, however, he hurried back. Seeing Menaster’s body on the floor he rushed forward, “I thought I said no killing!”

But, by this time, the woman, too, had fallen to Tor and Agnarr’s assault. Dominic quickly used his magic to return the man to life and stabilize the woman’s wounds, but left both of them unconscious. Agnarr quickly hogtied them.

With Menaster and the woman momentarily out of the way, the three of them continued exploring the house. The next room proved to be a hanging garden of vibrant green beneath the glass dome they had seen from outside. A staircase of white marble climbed to a bulstraded balcony above.

The only remaining room on the first floor was, apparently, a small kitchen. Heading upstairs they found Helmut’s richly-accoutered bedroom. In the bedroom’s west wall there was a solid iron door. Agnarr threw his shoulder against it, but found it firmly locked.

“This is why we should always bring Tee with us,” Agnarr muttered.

After a brief discussion, the three of them agreed that Tee, Elestra, and Ranthir had probably returned to the Ghostly Minstrel by now. Tor mounted Blue and rode back towards Midtown to collect them.


Elestra returned to the Ghostly Minstrel after her abortive shopping trip hoping that she would find Jevicca in the common room. She was in luck: Jevicca was sitting in the common room by herself, sipping a drink.

As Elestra crossed the sparsely-populated common room toward her, Jevicca looked up and smiled: “Elestra! How are you this evening? Is Agnarr about?”

“He should be back by now, but I haven’t seen him. Actually, I had something else I wanted to discuss with you. The Dreaming Apothecary.”

Jevicca immediately grew serious. “Why?”

Elestra explained her desire to have her blade enchanted. Jevicca nodded, “I am merely their representative. I can put you in contact with them, but the business you do with them is yours and yours alone.”

Elestra agreed. Jevicca held out her left hand, the one made of red glass. The surface of her palm seemed to ripple and flow, and there emerged from it a small disc of purplish stone. Jevicca handed it to Elestra. “Take this and place it under your pillow when next you sleep and the Dreaming Apothecary will make itself known to you.”


By the time Tor reached the Ghostly Minstrel, Tee had also returned. At the Jade Woman she had purchased a luxurious dress and a matching shirt with her dragon sigil tastefully embroidered into the shoulders (matching the design worked into the shoulders of her chain shirt).

Tor wasted no time, quickly gathering Elestra, Ranthir, and Tee from their rooms and explaining the situation. Tor left Blue in the Minstrel’s stables and, within minutes, all four of them were in a carriage returning to Helmut’s house.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Agnarr had been inspecting the first floor. He discovered that the rooms they had seen all formed a rough loop around the center of the house… but there were no doors leading to this area. There was a missing room here.

Agnarr: “I think there’s a secret door here.”

Dominic: “What makes you say that?”

Agnarr: “Look at these rooms. There must be another room in the middle of the house.”

Dominic: “You mean behind the door in the bedroom?”

Agnarr: “No, on the first floor.”

Dominic: “What are you talking about? We’ve been in every room on the first floor.”

Agnarr patiently walked Dominic around the lower level. “See?”

Dominic: “Right, here’s the library. Library to hall. Hall to front door. Front door to sitting room. Sitting room to garden. Garden to kitchen. We’ve been everywhere!”

Agnarr walked him down the length of the hall. “See how the hall is longer than the wall in the library?”

Dominic: “Right. The kitchen’s back there.”

Agnarr: “What? No. The kitchen is behind the wall in the library.”

Dominic: “Look, I know you don’t understand houses very well…”

The two of them were still at it when the others arrived. Tee immediately did a walk-around on the lower level and saw that Agnarr was right: There was missing space in the center of the house.

Ranthir, upon hearing that there was a library, headed straight there. Browsing through the titles, he found that the library was focused equally on astronomy and prophecy – much of it fringe material. Running his fingers along the spines, he noticed a piece of paper sticking out of a volume entitled Images of the Major Arcana. Pulling it out, he found that the parchment had been used to take several enigmatic notes:


“Asche shall deliver the Swords of the City.”

–of Ptolus???

Mand says that [scratched out] told him of a vision. But it seemed like madness.

“SC shall be driven mad by divine visions. Murder. Betrayal.”


“The wands must be selected before the swords.”

What are the staves of Ghul?

After the last note a large section of the parchment had been torn away.

By this point, Tee had joined Ranthir in the library. She was focused on trying to find the secret entrance to the hidden room and was almost immediately rewarded for her effort: She discovered that one of the bookcases was rigged so that it could be pulled out from the wall.

The shelf was incredibly heavy, however. In fact, it seemed as if weights had been built into its base specifically to make it more difficult to move. Tee stuck her head out the door and called down the hall way, “I’ve found the secret door!” (Dominic: “What? Where?”)

Tor and Agnarr were able to pull the bookshelf away, revealing a large room furnished as a luxurious bedroom. Off to one side there appeared to be several weeks worth of food and other supplies. Tee, looking through the door, immediately spotted someone trying to hide under the bed: A dainty foot was sticking out in plain sight.

“Phon…? Is that you?”

“Mistress Tee?” Phon stuck her head out from under the bed. “What are you doing here?”

“We were looking for you, Phon. What are you doing here?”

Phon explained that she had been brought here by Helmut for her protection. Then she furrowed her brow, “But what are you doing here? Where are Janila and Menaster? Are they all right?”

“They… will be.” Tee was forced to admit that they had attacked them, but she assured Phon that they would be all right.

“You attacked my guardians? Why?”

“They were lying to us. You just disappeared, Phon. Marta was worried about you. So was Brother Fabitor. We were worried about you. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes. Of course.” Phon made it clear that she had no desire to leave. She told them to let Marta and Fabitor know that she was all right, but she didn’t want anyone to know where she was. “It’ll be safest that way.”

Without any real choice in the matter, Tee reluctantly agreed. She backed out of the room and let Agnarr and Tor roll the bookshelf back into position.

Tee was still convinced that Helmut must be the father of Phon’s child. She was also fairly certain, even if she didn’t have any proof of it, that he had been the one to order her killed. With his political aspirations as part of the Republican movement, it seemed clear to her that he didn’t want to deal with the repercussions of a bastard child and an illicit affair.

The others agreed. It hadn’t escaped their notice that the heavy bookshelf was far too heavy for Phon to move by herself: For all intents and purposes, she was locked in a cell.

They quickly explored the rest of the house. It was clear that Helmut was fairly well off: An exotic collection of stained glass statues stood in the front hall. Expensive silver could be found in the kitchen. The bedroom drawers were filled with lavish jewelry and elegant clothes.

Ptolus - Dragon PistolThey left Helmut’s possessions alone, but they did take a close look at the equipment that Janila kept in the concealed compartment in the couch. They left most of it, but Ranthir did claim several potions and scrolls. Tee also found an elaborately carved dragon pistol, which she immediately claimed for her own.

The party then moved to the second floor, where Tee quickly picked the lock on the iron door. Opening it revealed a relatively barren and utilitarian room: A single desk of solid oak stood opposite the door, its top covered in thick masses of paper. The only decoration in the room was a painting of Galiel, the Silver Tree. (It is said that Athor and Crissa – the Father and the Mother – first met beneath the silver boughs of Galiel. Some legends claim that they were, in fact, born of Galiel.)

Lying on top of the papers on the desk was a single sealed letter. Tee promptly ripped it open.


You were right. We’ve traced the boy Dullin to the Cloud Theater. His security is poor during the performances. If we haven’t heard from you within the fortnight, we’ll proceed.

– S & H

After making a quick copy of the note, Tee handed the original to Elestra. Elestra murmured a brief spell, and the broken seal repaired itself.

Ranthir, meanwhile, had been inspecting the papers stacked on the desk. They appeared to be several months worth of the precise astronomical measurements being taken by the Observatory. They had been annotated in various ways, but according to no recognizable system as far as he could tell.

With Elestra mending the broken seal, Tee turned her attention to a thorough inspection of the desk. She quickly found a false panel at the back of one of the desk drawers. Opening it she discovered a single sheet of parchment:

Sitting alone at night. H upon the scope of the sky. A slight flame comes out of the void and makes true that which should not be believed in vain.

When the crowd gathers upon the hill in the oldest town, the new republic shall be troubled by its people. At this time the lord shall be weak.

In the world there will be made a king who will have little peace and a short life. At this time the ship of the Novarch will be lost, governed to its greatest detriment.

S shall find the golden statue while it still breathes. But the Idol of Ravvan brings doom. His lair lies beneath a vacant lot of brandywine.

They will be driven away for a long drawn out fight. The countryside will be most grievously troubled. Town and country will have greater struggle. Salesia and Corinthia will have their hearts tried.

The wands must be selected before the swords.

The eye of Ravvan will be forsaken, when his wings will fail at his feet. The two of Ptolus will have made a constitution for Amsyr and Duvei, which the goblins will trample underfoot

Arrived too late, the act has been done. The wind was against them, letters intercepted on their way. The conspirators were fourteen of a party. By the street of kings shall these enterprises be undertaken.

How often will you be captured, O city of the sun? Changing laws that are barbaric and vain. Bad times approach you. No longer will you be enslaved.  Great H will revive your veins.

The mimics have seen the lance. Doom.

The knights out of time shall move again. Their oath shall not be broken, though their dreams lie shattered like their city.

A coffin is put into the vault of iron, where seven children of the king are held. The ancestors and forebears will come forth from the depths of hell, lamenting to see thus dead the fruit of their line.

After combat and naval battle, the great ??? in his highest belfry: Red adversary will become pale with fear, Putting the great Ocean in dread

The elves shall quarrel. Dark out of the depths. Blood shed under silver moonlight.

Vehthyl and Itor, and the silver joined together. Beyond the depths of the Deeps, one will say the ether trembles.

The rune born of crime (DB???) will walk the clouds.

When they will be close the lunar ones will fail, from one another not greatly distant. Cold, dryness, danger towards the frontiers, Even where the oracle has had its beginning.

The key is found. The lost shall be found. The night of dissolution comes when the barbarians arrive.

The warrens are opened. Great evil pours forth. No seal may be found while the heart remains untouched.

Within the closed temple the lightning will enter, the citizens within their fort injured. Horses, cattle, men, the wave will touch the wall, through famine, drought, under the weakest armed.

These cryptic phrases proved mostly impenetrable upon first inspection. Tee began copying them out. Ranthir looked over her shoulder while she worked, and realized that there was a relationship between the annotations he had seen on the astronomical charts and the phrases. A few minutes of comparison revealed that Helmut was apparently deriving these phrases from the star charts. The method was not completely decipherable, but having both the annotations and the finished product made the relationship clear.

Once Tee was satisfied that they had found everything there was to find, she carefully returned the room to precisely the condition it had been in when they arrived. Then she locked the iron door behind them. It was her hope that Janila and Menaster wouldn’t realize they had been there. In fact, it was possible they might not even realize they’d been up to the second floor at all.

Dominic made certain that Janila and Menaster were both unconscious and sufficiently recovered from their wounds that there was no danger to their lives. Then he cut their bonds and the group left, locking the front door behind them.

“It seems,” Ranthir said, “That we are always left with more questions.”

“That’s right. And we still aren’t sure if Helmut is Methul Watcher or even if he’s the father of Phon’s child.”

“Wait,” Tor said. “I thought you guys were friends with Helmut?”

“Oh, no.” Tee said. “We’ve never even met him.”

“Well if I’d known that, I’d have hit her sooner!”


Share on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterShare on StumbleUponShare on FacebookShare on RedditShare on Google+Digg this

2 Responses to “In the Shadow of the Spire – Session 9B: In the House of Helmut”

  1. Syllable says:

    I just want to say that I find your writeups fantastic because they are so dramatic and readable. When I GM, I know my campaign records are far from enjoyable reading, mostly factual accounts of events and player knowledge. I wonder how much of what you write comes from the actual game and how much is added in the translation to a campaign diary? For example, when you describe a character’s impressions of a scene or their internal thoughts are those your reflections as a GM or the collected discussions of the players rendered into prose? I also wonder how much of the dialogue you write comes through directly from the table.

    This is my first comment on your site but I really appreciate the work that you do, from the campaign diaries, to the reviews, to the ways you isolate and analyze different mechanics and gamemastery tools.

  2. Justin Alexander says:

    Glad you’re enjoying the site!

    Re: Dialogue. Virtually all of the dialogue is reflective of what was actually said at the table. In these early campaign logs I’m working from memory; later logs are built from audio recordings — the results are, AFAICT, basically indistinguishable. Stuff is edited down and cleaned up, but mostly in the way you’d expect to see in an interview transcript edited for print. (So stuff like “ummm…” and “ahhh…” are removed, along with false starts, etc.)

    Re: Internal thoughts specifically. Often that’s coming from post-play discussions (or inter-play discussions happening during breaks). My players often discuss the game amongst themselves and with me, and that often includes talking about what they were thinking or feeling in a particular moment. Sometimes the characters themselves will have these discussions in-game during down time; those conversations rarely get written down, but what they reveal about character thought processes will get reflected back. In some cases, the players may also talk their way through their character’s thoughts in the moment as they work out what the character would do.

    Is the material completely unchanged? No. Stuff is pared down; repetition is removed; action that I don’t feel is relevant for future reference or context is skipped over (like, say, shopping trips for buying more healing potions). In some cases, the sequence of events will be altered in order to keep things tighter.

    This approach is fairly fractal: Look at the descriptions of combat, for example. Virtually everything you read in the description of a fight actually happened during that fight, but there’s a lot of just “I hit him, he hit me” stuff that gets cut out. And sometimes the sequence of other memorable moments will be swapped around in order to stitch around the holes left in causality. (This might be something I try to pull out and comment on specifically when I get to a good, pertinent example in the actual journal.)

    You should be able to clearly see that the journal isn’t capturing an accurate, round-by-round, action-by-action record of what happened at the table. If you interpolate from that, you can get a sense of the type of editorial tightening that happens throughout the journal.

    EDIT: And I just remembered that I actually wrote a blog post about this here. Although I think I’ve actually gone into more detail here. 😉

Leave a Reply



Recent Posts

Recent Comments