Shades of Shadora

The Journal

The next morning was bright and clear, as the party went to the Mage’s Guild. As they moved through the crowded city streets, none of them noticed they were being followed until they were surrounded by a ragged group of children. “Please, spare a few coppers,” said the leader of the group, standing in front of Prospero.

Prospero tossed a few coins out into the street, which vanished almost before they hit the ground. Encouraged both by the affluence of the party, as well as the ease they had gotten money from the group, more children appeared, almost as if by magic. Nightshift saw where this was going and loudly roared a troll challenge, scattering the urchins, who melted back into the crowd and the alleys of the city. A quick check revealed that one of the urchins had lifted the purse from Ellisandra’s belt before he left, taking the change she carried there. Without further incident, the group made it to the Mage’s guild. Two men at arms flanked the door, and as the party approached, one of the guards stepped in front of the party, “Where are you going?” he asked.

Prospero looked at the guard, “We are going to the guild library,” he said haughtily.

“And the troll is your research assistant? I don’t think so,” said the guard with a sneer.

“No, the troll is not my research assistant, what a preposterous notion,” said Prospero as he tried to go around the guard, “He is our bodyguard.”

“Bodyguard or not, he can’t come into the guild. He’s not a magician; trade secrets and all that,” said the guard, standing his ground.

Sighing, Prospero turned to Nightshift, “Here’s a silver coin, find a pub nearby,” he began.

“Try the Pig and Whistle, it’s nearby, and has good service,” offered the guard.

Glaring at the guard, Prospero continued, “Go to this Pig and Whistle, and we will meet you there when we are done. Stay out of trouble!”

Nightshift took the coin and went happily towards the pub as Ellisandra and Prospero went into the guild. After getting directions to the library at the main desk, they entered the room and were confronted with the enormity of their task. As they stood in the doorway looking at the shelves that lined the walls all the way to the vaulted ceiling, a dwarf came from behind a pile of books to their right. “Close the door now; you weren’t raised in a barn, were you? Come in and stay or go out and leave, but I’ll thank you to close the door!”

Surprised by the outburst, Prospero and Ellisandra took a step in and the door shut behind them. “Now that you’ve put a slab of wood in the source of that nasty cold draft, perhaps I can help you. My name is Paravel, I’m the head librarian,” said the dwarf, extending a stubby hand covered in ink smudges of various hues.

“Prospero, and this is my apprentice Ellisandra,” said Prospero, shaking the dwarf’s hand. “We’re here to look for some information. Specifically anything to relate to something known as the ‘ring of velu’”
“Hmmm,” said the dwarf as he thoughtfully rubbed the side of his bulbous nose with his finger. “That’s a new one. Never heard of anything like that, but perhaps you can look for things related to rings, which is located in this section, and information on the great cities, located over there. I’ll look in a couple of non-standard sources and see if I can find anything there.”

A couple of hours passed, and Ellisandra had been unable to find anything on Velu in the section on the great cities, and Prospero hadn’t been able to find anything on rings that was particularly helpful. Paravel walked up with his assistant, Rig, just as Ellisandra was telling Prospero that she had been unable to find anything on any of the cities, much less on Velu. “My young lady,” began the dwarf, “if you are to be a wizard, you really must learn to do your research. Of course there is information there about all of the cities; you simply must not have been looking in the right place.”

“Sir,” interrupted Rig, “Don’t you remember, the great cities collection was moved for cleaning, review, and restoration into the archive room?”

Paravel looked at Rig in surprise, “You are absolutely right! I forgot that we had moved that collection. I am terribly sorry, young lady, the fault is my own. Follow me, please.”

The dwarf turned and navigated between the piles of books and desks heading towards a locked door in the back of the room. “We normally don’t let people in here during an inventory,” he said as he put his key in the lock, “but it’s the least I can do after having wasted…”

The dwarf’s voice trailed off, because as he opened the door, it was apparent that the room had been ransacked, as if someone had been searching for something. The dwarf scrambled around and started trying to restack the collection, and restore order to the chaos in the room. “It appears that the only things missing are to so with Velu,” he said, still in shock.

“Sir, that was the material you had me send to the Scriptorium in the divine quarter to be copied,” said Rig, “It’s been there for a couple of days at least!”

“Well, it appears that I have really been wasting your time today,” said the dwarf ruefully. “Perhaps you’ll let me make it up to you by giving you a letter of introduction to Hiram Scribblet, the head of the Scriptorium. He should be able to help you find what it is you are looking for.”

After the dwarf drew up the letter of introduction and apologized a couple of more times, Prospero and Ellisandra left the guild and had a quick lunch with Nightshift at the Pig and Whistle, which turned out to be a fairly nice place, which belied it’s ramshackle exterior appearance. After their meal, the party set out to the divine quarter to continue their search. As they headed down a lesser travelled side street, Prospero heard a voice in his ear,” I told you not to seek the ring of velu. You will pay for your persistence.”

Screams rang out as grates were pushed aside by creatures crawling out of the sewers. Bystanders ran away as fast as they could and the party readied for an assault as skeletons clambered out of the grates behind them and zombies shambled forward from in front of them. Ellisandra began to sing a quick tune, and with a sudden explosion like a thunderclap, a blast filled the area in front of the party, blowing one of the zombies apart. Nightshift charged forward, stopping the forward movement of one of the zombies as it shakily got to its feet, while Grimclaw pounced on one of the skeletons, damaging it. The skeletons began to swing their weapons at Grimclaw, who used any opening he could find to counterattack. Ellisandra was covered in a brief golden glow as Prospero cast an armor spell on her. The skeletons not fighting with Grimclaw began to shoot arrows at Prospero, grazing him slightly. Prospero spun and cast a bolt spell, causing glowing missiles to shoot forward and destroy three skeletons in a shower of sparks and broken bone. Ellisandra continued her song, and another thunderclap blast destroyed another of the skeletons and knocked another one down. As the battle raged in the center of the street, a burst of flame erupted around Ellisandra and Prospero burning Ellisandra badly as a pair of flameskulls joined the fray. As another bolt from Prospero blew both flameskulls apart, Nightshift swung his staff, trying to keep the mob of zombies surrounding him at bay. Another thunderclap burst nearby as Ellisandra continued casting, killing two of the zombies surrounding Nightshift. Prospero cast the untie cantrip on his sword’s peace bond, causing the strap to fall to the ground as he pulled his sword and charged into the swords, being careful to stay outside the reach of the troll’s wildly swinging staff. Nightshift shifted backwards and swung, connecting with each of the zombies attacking him, and knocking the head clean off the one on the end, even as Prospero cut another in half with his sword. Grimclaw finally killed the last of the skeletons as Nightshift and Ellisandra finished off the last of the zombies; Nightshift battering two zombies apart with his staff, and Ellisandra cutting off the head of the last zombie with her dagger. Moments after the battle had ended, the city guard arrived, and began to ask questions about this being “yet another case of battle and magic within the city limits by the Prospero party.”

Ellisandra walked up to the captain of the guard, “Sir, of course my master is not involved with these events in any way, other than through the fact that someone means him harm. We have once again, simply defended ourselves, and unless you wish to assign a detachment to watch over us to prevent these sorts of events, I suggest you leave us be.”

After much deliberation, during which Ellisandra tended her wounds, the captain of the guard finally let the party go with an admonishment that they should “try to find less dangerous places to be”, and within minutes, the group was once again on their way to the Scriptorium. Hiram Scribblet met with the adventurers, thanks to the introduction from Paravel, “I’m happy to help, but I’m afraid you’ll find that your task may be quite a difficult one. There was an accident when they were bringing the documents over. It involved a wagon full of pig manure, and it really has been quite a mess. Sindy, my assistant can help you.”

Looking at the mass of filthy books and scrolls, Prospero looked at them with distaste, picking a particularly soiled specimen from the top of the pile. “I think we can help a bit with that, Mr. Scribblet,” and with a word, the scroll was clean as if it had never been dirty.”

“What? How did you do that?” asked the Scriptorium director.

“It’s a simple cantrip, even my apprentice knows it. Any mage worth his salt should be able to do the same,” replied Prospero.

“Amazing, simply amazing,” stammered the director, “Get me a crew of wizards here to clean this up. This will take no time!”

A short while later, after the crew of student wizards finished cleaning the documents, the search began in earnest to find the information they had been unable to trace thus far. As they began, Grimclaw told Prospero that he was hearing things hit the roof. Prospero asked Hiram about it. “Nothing to worry about, my dear wizard, we have a number of pine trees outside the facility. You get used to the cones falling and hitting the roof. You get used to it,” said the director.

Grimclaw went outside and looked at the roof, where he mentally contacted Prospero to let him know about the smoke he saw coming from there. At about the same time, a crash came from behind Prospero as four large salamanders fell through the roof and began to sling fire about them in a completely random frenzy. Copiers ran out of the building, abandoning their work as their desks burst into flame. Grabbing as much as they could carry, Sindy, Ellisandra and Prospero ran to the nearby window which had been blown out by the intense heat coming from the salamanders and jumped out with as many of the documents as they could carry. Hiram was distraught at the loss of knowledge that the fire was consuming, and as the wizards on the fire brigade put out the fire and captured the rogue elementals, he was somewhat consoled by the things Sindy, Prospero and Ellisandra were able to save. One journal stood out, a logbook of the watchwarden of the city of Thenga Velu. Hiram allowed Prospero to take it back with him for study.

On the way back to the inn for the night, a wizard from the darkness college bumped into Ellisandra. “Watch where you are going little girl, your betters shouldn’t be trifled with,” said the fat man with flowing robes as his entourage snickered nastily.

“Watch where you are going yourself, old man, you bumped into me,” replied Ellisandra testily.

“Oh ho,” laughed the man mirthlessly, “I recognize the apprentice Prospero. Is this student yours, apprentice? Perhaps you should teach this student to recognize the robes and station of a master wizard, such as myself, Belmeer. Assuming, of course, that you know how.”

One of the entourage stepped forward and whispered loudly, “That’s Ellisandra, the whore wizard.”

“Really,” said the fat man, arching his eyebrows, “and a fitting apprentice for Prospero she would be, a little, low born gutter slut, unfit to wear the robes of a mage.”

With that, he walked briskly away from the group without any further conversation, followed by his entourage. Prospero saw one of the beggar children who accosted them earlier, and tossed him a coin, “There’s more where that came from, but you have to get them from the fat man there.”

Nodding, the child called to his friends and within moments, the fat wizard was surrounded by dirty children who were grabbing at his robes and demanding money. “Come on,” said Prospero, “Don’t worry about Belmeer the Belittling, let’s get back to the inn and study this book.”

Erik’s Account

This is the account of Erik of Crowhaven son of Weldon, Watchwarden of the Wizard’s Spyre, in the great city of Velu.

-On this the 26th day of the Season of Flamesleap in the year of 7550 as reckoned by Emancia I stand watch over Trade Island. This is the 14th season of the Lazuri Empire’s siege on Thenga Velu.

-This is the hour of the Duck and there is great activity among the Lazuri fleet that lies in blockade beyond the Warm Water Harbor. The masters have seen fit to bless me with enchanted eyes that pierce both the dark and the distance to the bay. I can see individual sailors at work upon the decks. Were that they could extend my sword arm as far as my sight. The Great harbor chains and their sorcerous wardens have kept the vile fleet from the harbor for the last 2 years. Tonight the great ships appear to be lining up to make another run, so I have sent word to the masters to man the harbor chains and their wards once again.

-The watch candle has burned into the hour of the Porpoise and the unthinkable has occurred. The great Lazuri fleet has broken through the harbor chains and is pouring into Warm Water harbor. Never have I witnessed such fire. I swear that I feel its heat upon my cheek as I write. The chains flare and melt as the ebony ships with their great red sails push through them as though they were the paper ribbons set about the streets during the Adjournment season celebrations. While amazed, I have no fear, for our own great fleet of ships with their brave Velu sailors are racing forward to meet them.

-The watch candle has burned deep into the hour of the Sheep and the battle rages on. The lazuri have flung salamanders onto the decks of our ships using catapults! The gossamer leaves of the great elven tree-ships burst into flame despite their enchantments. The lazuri’s vile chaos sorcerers must be unleashing their unholy magics to cause the wooden ships to burn so. The screams of the elves dying in a manner that represents their greatest fears reaches my unenhanced ears even at this great distance. The floating stone fortresses that are the dwarven ships fare much better and their great cannons fire ceaselessly blowing gaping holes in the sides of the black ships. Many a mast, hull, and crew are sent to the bottom of the harbor as the lazuri find themselves perishing in their own worst way. I take some comfort that their screams also fill my in aided ears.

-In the hour of the Raven the raging battle for warm water harbor is taking a turn. Our brave fleet has held the lazuri black hearts at bay, but now a new fleet of fast ram ships is approaching the harbor from around the hills of Nathos. They are many in number, at least fifty and under full oar. I have sent runners to alert the harbor guard but I fear my warning will go unheeded as the lazuri in the harbor have conjured a new rain of fire elementals, this time aimed at the warehouse district. The cannons of the dwarves fleet and the arrows if the elves exact a steep toll on the lazuri for focusing their wrath on the city.

-My watch candles are starting to sweat from the blazing inferno in the streets below the Spyre, but I can still make out that it is now the hour of the Owl. Below me I can see the water mages, the priests of Demelna and those of Aguala conferring. I cannot hear their words but can only assume they are searching for the best way to fight the fires in the streets. The ram ships are approaching the harbor now and are moving at an unnatural pace. I train my gaze upon the lead ship and scream wells up in my throat. The drummer that is pounding out this merciless beat is none other than high general Harlen himself. He that has been missing from Velu these last three seasons after a sortie that he led was waylaid outside the gates by an overwhelming force. It is said that a thousand lazuri died beneath his hammer and the spears of his knights before he was overwhelmed. Great parades of morning were held in his honor in the following weeks, thinking him lost forever. But no! He sits before me surrounded by his knights Ekwell, Gwenall, Fynar, Zeloor, and Thoruth all leading the enemy’s ships against their own homeland. I must log that this is not betrayal, rather black magic as the fresh scars of the Entrall ritual adorn all their noble brows. My heart breaks as I write.

-In the hour of the Fox my tale grows stranger still. The Demelna priests have diverted the river into the streets of city to drown out the salamanders and extinguish their works. A great cheer goes up from those in the city manning the fire brigade. However, my keen eyes alight on the true cunning of the Lazuri’s strategy. Diverting such vast quantities of water from the river, lowers the depth of the harbor and now it is apparent why the Lazuri fleet kept to the shallows. Soon the deep drafted dwarven ships of stone are aground with no maneuverability. The lazuri ships fare little better and battle of great warships becomes a chaotic melee of boarding parties and hand to hand combat. The lazuri triremes with their shallow draft are unphased by the harbor’s sudden drop and seem to fly past the melee on the decks of the warships. They are heading straight for the wizards Spyre upon which I stand. I send a runner to alert the masters below that brother will soon be fighting brother in some macabre parody of a civil war that never was. As the ships enter the mouth of the warm river their cargo nets are cut free and vile wyrms and wyvern are loosed into the skies. I flash the lanterns at the air temple to alert Sky Marshal Parrier that the Spyre is in need of air support. I string my bow and whisper a prayer to Dagaral and instruct the runners to do likewise.

-This is the hour of the Bat as near as I can tell. My watch candle has been extinguished to make us harder targets. Some of the wyrms have riders with keen senses and powerful spells. I have spent all of Dagaral’s favor insuring that my shots at these fire priests fly true. I wish now that I have spent more time humbling myself before Dagaral instead of carousing with my men in the Bloody Bucket. The flying beasts are detained now by Sky Marshall Parrier;s gryphon squadrons and I can get a clear look at the assault. It appears that the Lazuri and their minions have reached Trade Island and gained the gates of the Spyre itself. Most of the city lays open to such a large force and I find it strange that they are focusing all their efforts, and considerable magic, on the Spyre itself. Perhaps they seek to destroy the journeyman gate, or worse yet, summon a great army through it to pour out and storm Velu from the inside. It is rumored that this is how they took Thenga Orana back in 7542. By Dagaral’s blessed bow! There had been a great explosion below me that has shaken the tower in its entirety. Form the enemy’s cheers I would say that the noble Spyre has been breached. The massed troops outside the Spyre are passing what looks like an iron sarcophagus over head from man to man on its way to the Spyre’s front gate. Great are the energies that are heaped upon it by Velu’s mages as it is passed forward towards the gate. Once it reaches the gate it passes from my site. The junior wardens are warning me of another approaching aerial assault, so I will set down my log in a safe place and make my stand. They are but girls and boys, these watch wardens, yet none of them flee their posts. They nock their best arrows and call upon their ancestral spirits to watch over them as a horde of hellish winged beasts put their back to the moon and bear down on us.

-The candles are out and my ink is lost so I will close my last log with my own blood. We were decimated but we sent many a wyrm and wyvern to the jagged rocks of the river bank before we fell. The junior wardens fought bravely and I request that each of their names be inscribed on the stone Columns of Courage within the courtyard of the Veluvian cohort. James son of Michael, Westren son of Kane, Grella daughter of Kimbra, Hess son of Dirk. My wounds will not be treated in time, and the poison of three wyvern stings courses through me now, causing my hands to shake. I would note that I crawled to my knees to peer over the ramparts and saw the iron sarcophagus loaded upon the lead ramship which immediately fled to the open sea. The remainder of the lazuri fleet was destroyed 79 ships in all. Only the ramship bearing the coffin escaped. The lazuri paid an awful price for delivering and then retrieving that coffin. They were but a short time in the arch. Not long enough to plunder its treasures. Perhaps they destroyed the arch or sought someone or something else on the first floor.

-I am weak now and will close this log with a final prayer. Dagaral, mighty hunter and hearth guardian, I beg of thee to bear my spirit to your happy hunting ground beyond the halls of silence. Thus ends the final watch of Erik of Crowhaven son of Weldon, Watchwarden of the Wizard’s Spyre, in the great city of Velu.

-Log addendum by Christin daughter of Harm – the lord of the watch has granted this last request and the great deeds of Erik and his wardens will live forever on the Columns of the Cohort. On this the 28th day of the Season of Flamesleap in the year of 7550 as reckoned by Emancia. It should also be noted, that the siege of Velu is now ended as all land and sea Lazuri forces retreated before the light of Kala broke the morning of this day.

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