The Lower Reaches
A teleport-happy busker-turned-warlock with a difficult (and dangerous) boss.
Stuffis Otherspoon left his halfling village at a relatively young age, not lacking love for his parents and siblings but sensing that he had a role to play in the wider world. His wanderlust took him to a number of villages and even a large city, where he lived for weeks hand-to-mouth, picking up odd courier jobs and occasionally pocketing his daily meals at a five-finger discount. It was in the city that he met a tall thin elegant man with thistledown hair, named Darkbloom, who was running a theatre company. ‘And would you join us for a spell, little one?’ Hungry and fascinated and still smiling, Stuffis didn’t hesitate at all before saying yes.
Stuffis traveled for fully nine months with the theatre troupe, The Gaunt and Wylder Traveling Theatricals, before realizing his employers were members of the fey. By that point, of course, he had signed a contract and pledged something unspeakable to his employers, but he didn’t realize it – and you can’t really blame him: you haven’t read legalese until you’ve made a written bargain with the fey. (He still couldn’t tell you what exactly he’s signed away…) His bosses in the troupe were fond of him; easygoing and curious, he was like a child to them, and they cared for him as one of their own, lavishing him with gifts, none more precious than their time and teaching. Stuffis was nimble-fingered by nature, but they taught him to lighten the purses of the audience as if by magic; he was dextrous and skilled at tumbling, but they taught him to dance through a crowd as if made of mist; he had long known how to turn a trick with flash powder and a trap door, but the fey showed him how to make fire appear out of the very air.
And one night, when Stuffis found himself in the middle of a terrifying street brawl that left one of his fellow actors, a human, dead in the dirt, the leader of the troupe (Darkbloom himself) offered to show him something even more extraordinary. Stuffis turned his curiosity from stage performance and pickpocketing to another art form altogether darker…
Stuffis knows his old master isn’t just an old theatre manager, but even the halfling would be surprised to know Darkbloom’s real identity: a prince among the fey, wise and wily and older than the oldest tree. Darkbloom’s power among the fey is much diminished, but he’s not without influence – nor enemies.
Stuffis’s magical investigations haven’t yet threatened his good humour or friendliness, but unlike most halflings – who reject the old adage about curiosity and the cat – he knows the limits of sane inquiry; his first attempt at casting Curse of the Dark Dream taught him that. He left the Theatricals six months ago and has been living off their generous severance ever since, but that time is coming to an end – and the opportunity to take up a new adventure thrills him. Still, on the road at night Stuffis sometimes hears familiar voices whispering his name, calling him on, or yellow eyes blinking in the darkness and disappearing. Watching him.
Reminding him of his debt to the feywild.
Unfortunately, Stuffis had been adventuring with his new companions for less than a week when he was torn apart by a tentacled horror deep within Kalarel’s haunted Keep. His companions journeyed into the Feywild to strike a bargain with Stuffis’s sponsor, Darkbloom, and bought back his soul – or rather rented it. The cost: months of slave labour in dark Fey mines. Owing a life-debt to his fellow adventurers, Stuffis aided them in their battle against Kalarel, but was called into Darkbloom’s service over the next several months. When next he saw his companions his mood was a good deal less cheerful and his dagger bore several new notches about which he was loath to speak, but a few days in the caves beneath Thunderspire Mountain lifted his spirits. After freeing a group of miners and merchants from duergar and gnoll slavers, and battling the rogue wizard Paldemar, Stuffis retired for a time to the Halfmoon Inn, on the south side of the Thunderspire trading outpost.
But the life of a dishwasher can only interest a halfling for so long…