The Speaker in Dreams
By James Wyatt
Unlike the dungeon environs of previous 3rd edition D&D adventures, The Speaker in Dreams takes place entirely within a city. The characters still face terrible evil and horrible monsters, but the environment itself is less outright hostile -- and somehow more frightening exactly because of that. Here, monsters are not tucked away in a remote dungeon, but lurk behind the everyday faces of an everyday place, transforming an ordinary city into a place of terror...
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At the outskirts of the sprawling fair, an old woman hunches on the ground, clutching a wooden bowl and regarding passers-by with a pleading look in her eyes.
If any PCs put money in her bowl, she offers them a blessing in her rough country accent: "Pelor light your path and Heironeous guard your way!" If the party shows any further kindness to her, she looks solemnly in the eyes of one PC (the one she discerns to be the leader) and says, "Beware those who hear whispers in their dreams! They sleep fitfully now, awaiting the Speaker's plans!" With that, she holds her bowl out to another group of travelers arriving in the city, and stubbornly ignores the party.
The beggar is Jaeril, a character cloaked in magic and mystery. Jaeril appears as nothing more than a slightly mad old woman, dressed in dirty tatters and begging for alms. She is, in fact, slightly mad, but aware enough to know that the sorcerers who call themselves Those Who Hear are a major threat to the cit -- and aware enough to recognize a group of heroes who may be able to foil their plans. . . .
Southspur is Brindinford's poor quarter, where undesirable businesses (dyers, perfumeries, tanners) and people collect. If Eastgate is rough-and-tumble, Southspur is just rough, and residents of other quarters believe it is dangerous to walk down the street in Southspur. That is not necessarily true, but walking down the wrong street (or, more likely, leaving the street and winding through one of Southspur's many twisting alleys) can be deadly. In other neighborhoods, the thieves' guild keeps close tabs on criminal activities. They don't touch Southspur. . . .
The Baron's proclamation took the entire town by surprise. Baron Euphemes was never a particularly popular leader, but he also never displayed such a streak of cruelty before. He is generally regarded as wise, benevolent, and authoritarian. He has taxed trade heavily, preventing the merchants from gaining as much wealth and power as they would like, and ruled consistently in favor of keeping the aristocracy in its favored place. However, no one ever would have guessed that he would institute such heavy-handed measures. Of course, no one ever would have guessed that he was in league with devils, either . . . it just goes to show how wrong you can be about a person.
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