y - Virtue Stoneplate (Deceased)
level 2 dwarf wizard, charlatan illusionist, chaotic neutral
INT 13 (permanent brain damage from Expedition 17a)
Max HP: 11
Passive Perception: 11
XP: 2238 as of Expedition 17a
GP: 823 gp + 74 debt from Rock + 1 sp
Trained Skills: Stealth (3), Investigation (3)
Features and Traits:
- 1x per day – can get a spell back she already used that day after a short rest
- 3 lvl1 spells/day
- Firebolt [cantrip] – atk bonus +3, d10 damage, range 120 ft
- Ray of Frost [cantrip] – atk bonus +3, d8 damage, reduces speed by 10, range 60 ft
- Magic Missile – auto hit, 3d4 + 3 damage
- Sleep – 5d8 worth of HP enemies unconscious
- Colour Spray – 6d10 worth of HP enemies blinded for 1 round
- Shield (+5 AC till next turn)
- Comprehend Languages (ritual; understand spoken language or written language if touching the text, for one hour)
- Grease (covers 10 sq-ft solid surface with layer of slippery grease; anyone in the area must make DC-10 Balance check to move at half-speed; if fail by >4, they fall)
- Expeditious Retreat (concentration spell; can Dash for up to 10 minutes as bonus action on each turn until spell ends)
- Detect Magic (ritual; concentration spell; can sense presence of magic within 30 feet up to 10 minutes)
- Alarm (ritual; sets alarm within 20-foot cube for 8 hours, either mental ping or sound of hand bells)
- Fog Cloud (concentration spell; creates 20-foot radius sphere of fog for up to 1 hour; area heavily obscured)
- Mage Armour (recipient’s base AC becomes 13 + Dex mod for 8 hours or until spell is dismissed with an action)
- Find Familiar (ritual; summons Mayhem the Tarantula, see below)
- Minor Illusion (can subtly cast very convincing audiovisual illusions)
- Prestidigitation (can create nonmagical trinket in hand, instantly light/snuff out small fire, instantly clean/soil 1ft object; chill/warm/flavour 1ft material; among others for up to 1 hour)
- 6 rations
- 1 set of cold weather gear
- Arcane Amulet (borrowed from Sovan for 17b; regain 1 spell slot per expedition; 1 point of Lay on Hands per day)
- 1 set of climbing gear (borrowed from Sovan for 17b)
- 3 healing potions (regain 2d4 + 2 HP)
- Owes Raevori a favour that cannot involve any rolls on injury tables (January 28 2017)
Mayhem the Tarantula
DEX 14 (Stealth +4)
- AC 12
- HP 1(1d4 – 1)
- Passive Perception: 12
- Spider Climb (can climb difficult surfaces without ability check)
- Web Sense (can sense presence of other creatures on web)
- Web Walker (ignores movement restrictions caused by webbing)
- Bite (action; melee weapon attack; 2d4 poison damage if victim fails DC 9 Con check))
[TW for implied, NOT explicit child abuse.]
Virtue was born in the small town of Ramshackle to Teodora and Piotr, two do-gooder dwarven wizards. From a young age, Virtue was taught to use her considerable intelligence and talent to help others, regardless of personal hardship. Teodora and Piotr practiced a dying religion whose tenets required self-sacrifice for the community above all else.
Even as a child, Virtue used to question the purpose of these tenets. Virtue was always one for difficult questions, such as “Why do we have to roam around in a blizzard to help the Smythes retrieve their lost livestock when they turn their noses up at us?” and “Can’t I take a day off from magicking the neighbour’s grain seeds to grow better and like, go and swim in the lake or something?” While she admired her parents for their relentless good humour and desire to help others, Virtue always felt as though perhaps she had been switched at birth with another baby, another young dwarven wizard to whom altruism came more naturally.
These difficult questions did not unduly plague Virtue, however, and she had a relatively satisfying childhood. Until Teodora and Piotr fell ill simultaneously after tending to a nearby family’s plague-stricken baby. Until the only people who came by to inquire after her parents were the Smythes, complaining about their wandering cows and would your ma and pa please pop over to do that thing with the seeking spell again, thanks.
After her parents passed away, Virtue packed her few belongings into her bedroll and quit Ramshackle without a backward glance, falling in with a travelling troupe of charlatans. She learned how to make her coin from stupid locals and gullible tourists alike. Every now and then she felt a pang for the person her parents wanted her to be, followed by a conviction that she would never be the person chasing grubby cows in the snow ever again.
Life in the troupe came mostly easily to a gifted trickster like Virtue, who could make a bottle of pond water seem like a miracle cure for skin blemishes and pull rare flowers out of the air for delighted tourists. Her patter flowed like honey; the gold flowed in return. It didn’t matter how many of her marks would scowl in irritation when the pond water turned out to be just pond water, or the flower disappeared after a few minutes. They would return, fuming, to expose her for a fraud, only to walk away somehow with a new temporary trinket and even less gold.
When she was good, she was good, and she was good.
Virtue was one of the highest-profiting troupe members, rivalled only by her best friend Kefir. Having also joined the troupe at a young age, although many years before Virtue, Kefir had an incredible talent for pickpocketing. They would often team up, with both of them working a crowd simultaneously in their different ways – Virtue in the front, with her quick wit and pretty illusions; Kefir in the back, with his quick fingers and (if need be) quicker feet.
When the boss took a bigger cut than usual, Kefir commiserated with her. When they’d had a good week, Kefir would take her out drinking to celebrate. When she cast her first Firebolt that didn’t fizzle on the tip of her finger, Kefir applauded her. In a troupe full of city-savvy con artists who looked down on her country roots, Kefir was her anchor, the voice that kept telling her she was meant for more than this, that she would find it someday. He did things for her he didn’t have to do, spent money on her he didn’t have to spend. To her, this was love.
One day she came back to her room to find him there, waiting for her with a glint in his eye. “Pack your bags,” he said. “This is the day we get rich.”
“We’re already rich. Did Tor tell you I made fifty gold today? Fifty whole gold! That’s enough to get us drunk for a week.”
He laughed. “Fifty gold, V? You think that’s rich?”
Virtue, thinking of Ramshackle, wanted to say yes. Instead: “Well, you know, it’s more than what we usually get. And we’re hardly going to make nobility money.”
“What if we could?”
“If we could, I’d quit this gig in a heartbeat and hire you to feed me grapes.” She flopped on the bed, tired and aching from a day of sitting on her ass in the town square, spinning pretty things out of thin air. Idly, she scratched her nose. “What’s this about?”
Kefir winked down at her. He was the only person she knew who could wink without looking like an idiot. “Business, V. I’ve gone legit. Well, legit-ish.”
“Ish! Okay. I was worried for a second there.”
“What if I told you we could make enough money on this in one year, that afterwards we’d never have to work again? That I could get myself a mansion with a full set of servants, and you could get the finest wizard training money could buy, and we’d never have to give anything up to Torbren ever again?”
He came and sat down next to her on the bed, and she comfortably shifted to make room. “Okay, you have five minutes to tell me why this isn’t a complete load of horseshit. And remember, I’m not some gullible tourist.”
“I woooould, but I gotta iron out some details first with my contact—”
“—because, he doesn’t want me bringing anyone new on until they’ve proven themselves.”
“Kefir, there’s a bottle of top-shelf dwarvish rum in a fancy bar somewhere with my name on it, so either get straight with me or I’m leaving.”
“Okay.” He turned to her, his face serious. “What I can tell you is that it’s like… a franchise opportunity. We enable a service to be provided for rich people. Something they really want and will pay buckets of gold for. We connect them with… people, who supply that service. We take a fee, give both sides what they want, and everyone’s happy.”
“That sounds like a spiel if I ever heard it.” Virtue paused and sat up, realizing something. “Wait. Bringing anyone ‘new’ on? How long have you been doing this?”
Kefir shrugged. “About six months?”
“Six months? You never told me!”
“I was going to! I just didn’t know if you’d be down for it. There might be some combat involved, and you are kind of squishy.”
Virtue punched him in the shoulder.
“Ow! Okay, okay, you’re not squishy, you’re the Toughest of the Tough. Anyway—”
“Combat? Why combat? I thought this was legit-ish.”
“That’s where the ‘ish’ part comes in. The Watch’s been confiscating some of our… product lately. They’ve got wizards. We need wizards. And I told my contact we gotta bring in the best wizard I know.” He waggled his eyebrows at her. “No prizes to guess who that is.”
Virtue blushed. “Okay, okay, your spiel isn’t bad.”
Kefir jumped up. “So you’re in?”
“I… yes, yeah, okay, I’m in.”
“Excellent. Let’s celebrate!” He pulled her up and twirled her expertly in some move he’d probably learned from the barmaid next door, but she didn’t care. When he dipped her so low her hair brushed the floor, she squealed with glee. “What was that you said, my lady Stoneplate – top-shelf dwarven rum? You’re paying? Excellent!”
The rest of the week went on as usual. Kefir brushed aside Virtue’s questions with a mysterious “Wait and see, V, I’m dotting i’s and crossing t’s, you know how it is”. Only after a brusque “Leave me be, V, it’s getting there, okay?” did she leave him alone, bringing the conversation back to the usual subjects: work, the stupid marks, the smart mark who’d nearly punched her out the next day when he passed her on the street, which bar they should go to for her 80th.
Until one day, after their daytime shift ended and the last silver was tossed into Virtue’s cap, Kefir beckoned to her to follow him down a side alley instead of back to the troupe rooms.
On and on, through twists and turns, until they came to the side door of a nondescript-looking building. Kefir unlocked it with a key from his pocket and ushered her in. “After you, my lady.”
“Get stuffed.” Virtue looked around at the dark, narrow hallway in which they had found themselves. “Uh, please tell me you’re not going into the innkeeping business.”
He laughed. “Not quite. You’ll see.”
At the end of the hallway was a door. He looked back at her. “You ready?”
“For a huge room full of gold pieces, yes.”
“I mean, that’s not entirely inaccurate.” He unlocked the door with another key, and held it open for her. She stepped inside.
A room full of children. About twenty of them, all wearing similar dull brown clothes, with dormitory-style bunks. Some were talking quietly to each other, some were sleeping, and some were crying softly. The guards, two on either side of the door and two by the far window – the only window she’d seen so far – with sheathed swords, didn’t seem to notice.
Virtue turned to Kefir. “I don’t get it.”
“Remember the whole franchise opportunity thing?”
“Yes? You don’t—” She stopped dead. “You don’t— you couldn’t mean—” She laughed, in disbelief. “Okay, I get it, this is one of your jokes.”
“Nope!” He beamed, evidently pleased with himself. “Since the prohibition was passed, the nobility have been PISSED about not being able to hire their pageboys and servant girls in the usual way. So instead, we supply —” he gestured expansively at the room "—child protégés.”
Virtue blinked. “Child…what?”
“Protégés! The nobility are still allowed to have children in their homes, and those children can still do work for them if they want to. There’s a hefty placement fee, naturally, which we keep a percentage of, naturally, and then send the rest back to their parents. It’s enough for a modest lifetime income for them. They’re happy, we’re happy, everyone’s happy.”
Virtue looked around at the children who were listlessly playing with cheap felt toys. At the raven-haired human girl by the window who couldn’t have been more than six years old, crying silently and biting her fist. “Are they happy?”
“Who?” Kefir looked confused. “Oh, the kids? Why wouldn’t they be?”
“You’ve just taken them from their homes.”
“With their parents’ blessing, don’t forget. They’re young! They’re resilient. They’re starting a new life. Anyway, get this? We net 750 gold for every placement. Averaging ten placements a week!”
“Are they allowed to leave the…placements… if they want to? How does this work, exactly?”
He shrugged. "Are servants allowed to just leave their posts if they want to? We find a kid who matches the preferences – race, physical complexion, age,” he ticked them off on his fingers, “and we make the connection. Gold changes hands, everyone’s happy. Anyway, 7500 gold per week, can you believe that kind of profit margin?”
“You said they weren’t servants.”
“And I said this was legal-ish. Come on, V, I thought you were smart.”
Virtue ignored the heat rising in her chest. “What nobles are you sending them to?”
“Oh, all sorts.”
“Do you investigate them? Do you find out if they’re good people? Do you check up on the kids after? What do these kids do, exactly?”
Kefir smiled, but his eyes were suddenly cold. “V, look at you! You’re like a baby Watchman. What, am I under interrogation? Why are you focusing on all this shit and not on the massive stacks?”
“What do these kids do?”
“They provide services.”
“On anything! Gods! On the noble, on their family, on whatever the fuck they feel like, whatever they’re willing to pay a fuckload of money to us and their parents for, why do you care so fucking much?”
The children stared; Virtue realized she and Kefir had been yelling. She stepped out of the room, him behind her, and closed the door. In a quieter voice she said, “Please tell me you’re not just taking money and turning your head. Please tell me you know what they’re doing with them.”
“I want to believe you. Gods, Kefir, you’re my best friend and if you say it, I’ll believe it, but you have to say it.”
“Okay!” He laughed, short and strained. “Okay, yes, we’re doing our due diligence and our Gods-fucking-clearance checks and we’re selecting only the finest, nicest lords and ladies and we write it into the contract that every child has to get a pony on their birthday, there, happy?”
Virtue stared at him for a long second, and then turned to leave. His hand gripped her shoulder, so firm it was painful.
“Where are you going?”
“Away.” She struggled. “Kefir, let me go. I can’t be a part of this.”
“You said you were in.”
“I didn’t know it was this—”
“You said—” he leaned down and whispered in her ear, a rush of warmth, “—you were in. There are rules. You know where this place is. You can’t leave now.”
“I won’t let you.”
“Fuck you, Kefir,” she spat, and the heat in her chest grew as she turned to face him. “Fuck you. I will never help you with this. I’m out.”
His eyes widened, at first she thought in amusement, but then he spat back, “What is your fucking problem?”
“Yes! Gods, look at you! Since when did you become so weak?”
“I am not— you—”
“You are! You are, my Gods, you are. And I thought you had potential. Your parents fucked you over, your shitty little hometown fucked you over, Tor fucks you over. Your own parents would’ve put you in this kind of program in a heartbeat! Haven’t you always told me how broke they were? How much you hated it?”
“I thought you would be sick of it by now. I thought you would be ready for something bigger." In his agitation the lock of hair he always so carefully styled fell over his brow and Virtue thought, absurdly, He does care about me. Look how much he cares. “And here I am trying to give it to you. You could run this with me. With me. Just the two of us, breaking out on our own, isn’t that what we always talked about?”
“But if you want to leave, Virtue, then leave. Fine. I’ll make your excuses. I’ll tell them something. And you can go off and be your shitty little average self.”
She finally found her voice. “Average?”
“Yes,” he said, and his face shifted yet again to the same cool smirk she knew so well. “Average. A nobody from a nothing town. A wannabe wizard who hasn’t been on a single expedition. A little girl who plays at magic.”
“You don’t mean that. You’re just— you don’t mean that.”
He laughed again, but this time it was light and mocking. “Don’t I? Haven’t I been running this operation just fine without you for the past six months?”
“You said you needed me.” Of all the things to be angry for, she thought, why does this one sting the most?
“I don’t. Never did. Why would I need a mewling brat like you? I brought you in because I felt sorry for you.”
She couldn’t even speak.
“I pitied you, you little fool. You’re always hanging after me with those big sad eyes, trying to be something you’re not. You think I haven’t noticed you panting over me? You think the others don’t notice it? You think they don’t laugh at—”
“Enough!” Virtue found her voice and her powers at last, blasting him with a Firebolt that threw him ten feet down the corridor, blackening his shoulder. The sick joy she felt from the fear finally dawning in his eyes was so acute it hurt. “Enough, you—”
“GUARDS!” he screamed, and the door behind them burst open. Virtue, blind with rage, turned and flashed fire at each – dropped, dropped, dropped, dropped. She barely had time to register the horror in the children’s faces before the sound of Kefir, scrabbling down the hallway on hands and knees to the door, drew her back. She blasted him again in the leg and strode up to him, smoking and singed on the floor.
She looked down at him. At his ruined body, at the beautiful face she knew so well. She could not form a thought. She leaned down and grabbed the front of his shirt in her hand, the other hand ready to… to…
The fire on her fingertips reminded her.
Incredibly, he began to laugh again.
“You can’t do it.”
“No, V, you can’t.”
“I can,” she repeated, still wanting to prove herself to him, a psychopath burning at her feet.
“It’s like I said,” he breathed, so quietly she had to lean down to hear him. “Weak. Average. Nothing. You can’t even kill me in time.”
“In time for what?” But she realized the smell of smoke was not just coming from him and the corpses – it was all around her. The walls were burning. The ceiling was burning.
“You wanted to save those brats?” Kefir spat, and the flames danced in his eyes. “Go fucking try. They’ll be back looking for me in a week. They’ve got nowhere else to go. None of this will change. No one wants it to.”
The far wall began to crumble. Sweat ran down Virtue’s face. Still she didn’t move. “You’re wrong.”
“Oh, I don’t think I am.”
“No. My parents.” It was all she could say. “You’re wrong. They loved me. You’re wrong.”
From the room beyond, a child screamed.
She tore her eyes from his and ran in, forcing the window open and gathering each child up in her arms as she lowered them down to the grass which was, fortunately, a bare few feet below. “Come on!” she cried, dragging them as roughly as she dared. “Come on, Gods damn you, or else we all die! Do you want to die here?”
When she was finished, when the last child lay trembling on the wet grass outside, she ran back to the doorway, but he was gone. With a soft whump, the far portion of the ceiling caved in, and something shifted in the building’s structure. She gave up looking for him and ran – jumped -
The building collapsed, and she shielded the children closest to her with her small body, stretching her arms wide as though she could spread wings over all of them.
Minutes, perhaps hours later, she wearily lifted her head.
Twenty pairs of shell-shocked, but open, eyes met hers.
“Go,” she said, and then coughed, a wracking dust cough. “Go. Watch headquarters is all the way down this street. Past the bust of Shelaira. Make a left. You’ll see it.”
They didn’t move.
“Go! Or I’ll blast you the way I blasted them! Go!”
Slowly, and then all at once, they half-stumbled half-ran down the street. A few of the bigger ones carried and cajoled the smaller ones along, until eventually they were all out of her sight.
Virtue coughed once, then again, then heaved herself up and made her slow way back home.
The next day, she left for Sila. The boat cleared the shore, set out into smooth waters. The sun shone. She didn’t look back.