Developing Akorros Part 6 – Carlotta’s Curios

This is part 6 in a multi-part series developing the city of Akorros in Darokin from the skeleton outline in GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin to a full-fledged city which I can use as a campaign base. In this series of blog posts you will be able to follow along my research and thinking as I develop it into a rich adventure environment. Once sufficiently developed, it will also be available on WorldAnvil as part of my Melestrua’s Mystara campaign world. Subscribe to this blog to follow along. Previous posts:

Part 5 described the general layout of the Place of the Silver Dragon, in a once-affluent area of tenements which have come down in the world. This post looks at some of the establishments in the square in more detail.

Carlotta’s Curios

On the south side of the square, facing the Silver Dragon Inn, is a musty establishment, Carlotta’s Curios. This has been here for decades and Carlotta is known as a familiar figure in the square, a bent old woman, always with a red spotted head-scarf and black shawl over a pale brown dress, going round the food shops with her basket over one arm and a walking stick in the other hand as she purchased her groceries for the day before returning to the shop.

Ground floor

The shop itself sells a wide variety of items which very much live up to the description of “curios”. Rummaging among its dusty shelves you may find all sorts – a 3’ stuffed crocodile, a pottery cauldron, a family of ceramic toads, a single red leather boot, a miner’s lamp, an intricately carved wooden box 4”x3”x2”, a curling musical brass instrument, a foot-high wooden carving of an owl. Most of it is junk, but careful searching can turn up all sorts of surprising things and useful things. There are even sometimes magical items piled among the rest.

Through the back are an informal kitchen/tea/coffee room where Carlotta did business, and a door leads through into an office. Stairs in the corner lead up to the first floor and down to the basement.

It is hard to understand how the shop pays its way, and who would actually be interested in most of the stuff. But Carlotta did seem to get regular visitors, some bringing items, some leaving with items, some apparently just browsing. And quite a few of them seemed to visit at night… In fact, the shop was a front for smuggling. A secret passage from the basement leads to the sewers, and from there around the city and down to the docks. Carlotta was also a fence and arranger – if you were looking for something and had the right connections, she could arrange to “find” it, and if you had something valuable and hot, she could take it off your hands. All for an appropriate fee, of course.

Carlotta hasn’t been seen for a few months, though the shop does still seem to be in operation, and the local gangs are getting a bit anxious at the loss of their conduit. The shop is now always manned by a large man with a fiery red beard and wild curly receding red hair. He keeps his arms bare, showing off the many tattoos, and generally wears a leather jerkin. Visitors to the shop now can sense his suspicious glare following them, and tend not to stay long. He certainly doesn’t invite approaches the way Carlotta did, and very few people are allowed past him into the back rooms.

Through the back, behind a bead curtain, is a kitchenette with a table and chairs, basic household items on shelves, drinking mugs (too many for just Carlotta). A sink under the window has a few plates, knives and glasses on the draining rack to the side, a washing brush next to it, and a half-full water jug on a rack underneath. A box of empty bottles stands in a corner. Light comes in through a grimy window on the back wall. A door on one side leads to an office, and a pair of doors on the other side lead to stairs down to the basement and up to the first floor (note: I use the British way of counting floors – first floor = first floor above ground level).

First floor

Heading up the stairs from the kitchenette, the first floor (above ground) is largely given over to storage. Again the stairwells (both up and down) are behind doors, and lead into an open area, the main feature of which is a bearskin rug. This is an Animated Bearskin Rug (see the forthcoming Tome of Beasts 2 from Kobold Press) which will attack anyone coming up the stairs who hasn’t been introduced to it by someone it already knows. It has a symbol like two flames back-to-back within an octagon dyed onto its back, and the same symbol is on the wall opposite the stairs.

To the left as you come up the stairs are rows of shelves, containing boxes and boxes of yet more of the curios and junk that features in the shop, although many of these are even more decrepit than those on display.

Opposite the stairs, a door leads into an office space with a desk and chair, and shelves of papers. There are also various heavy leather gauntlets, blackened as if they have been frequently used to hold very hot items, and a small barrel holds staves with cloth-wrapped ends and hollow balls of wire with central reservoirs and wicks like miniature lanterns.

Carlotta is no more. The place has been taken over as a front for Dario’s Mesmerising Confabulators, a troupe of jugglers and acrobats specialising in fire – the flame emblem is their logo. This is itself a front for a sect of the forbidden Fire Mages.

In the middle room, as well as more fire-protective clothing on shelves, is a black iron furnace with stubby legs and a pair of locked doors on the front. Although there is no fuel visible, the furnace is always intensely hot – and this is because it is fuelled by a trapped small fire elemental. Once again the DMC logo is stamped on the top of the furnace. Pipes lead out from behind the furnace pumping hot water around this floor and the floor above. The third room is a bedroom with a bed and chest of drawers.

Moving up, the next floor is a residential floor. The eaves of the building project slightly into the ceiling in between the windows which are in dormers, giving areas next to the walls only 4 feet high, rising towards the centre. Next to the stairwell is a washroom, with a couple of basins, jugs, and pottery chamber pots which, once used, are emptied into the street outside. A sponge on a stick sits in a jug of vinegar when not in use, although a collection of sheets of paper on a string hang from a nail to provide an alternative.

Opposite the washroom is a dormitory room with three beds and three chests, and next to the washroom is the leader’s room, with a bed, wardrobe, desk and chair. The wardrobe contains black leather jackets and trousers, again with the DMC logo onto them.

The final room on this floor looks like a shrine. An occult circle is in the centre of the room with candlesticks around it, and further candlesticks stand in a corner. More gloves sit in a container in another corner, and a heavy curtain blocks the light from the window. I’m not a member of the Fire Mages, so I don’t know the details of the occult rituals which go on in here…

A ladder leaning against the washroom wall can be used to get up through the hatch in the ceiling. This leads up into the attic – a musty space in the roof with boxes and chests. These contain Carlotta’s last remaining effects – clothes, curtains, shoes, a very old red dress carefully wrapped in tissue paper. There are no windows here, so what light there is comes through gaps in the slate roof. There is just about enough space to stand in the middle of the room, and the eaves come down on both side right to the floor.

Basement

Moving down from the ground floor instead of up, the basement is fairly empty. A few shelves hold books and lanterns (including a couple of dark lanterns), and a cabinet holds wading boots. A desk and a chair sit in a corner, a couple of chests in the opposite corner with scrolls and a candlestick on top of them. A secret door leads to a short secret passage which opens (through another secret door) to the sewers.

Reading through the papers here reveals various documents, scrolls and other arcane notes related to summoning. On the shelves along with the lanterns are vials of powder and liquids in a range of colours; those who dare to open them would be assaulted with a variety of smells, some pungent, some spicy, some dusty. They are labelled, but in an obscure script. Some of them have been used to mark out an occult symbol on the floor.

Thurible

Rummaging in the chest turns up more candlesticks, candles of different shapes, sizes and fragrances, a brazier, tongs, sticks of incense and a thurible; a hook in the ceiling directly above the occult symbol is obviously intended to hold this.

The Fire Mages are obviously intending to try to summon something, and just as obviously, it isn’t something wholesome, and given the amount of research they have had to do, nor is it anything which is regularly summoned.

My campaign, the Akorran Rift, brought the characters back to Akorros just at the point where the Fire Mages had succeeded in their summoning, and unleashed something on the world they weren’t able to contain. The characters materialised in the basement where a black fiery globe was spinning in the air above the symbol. The leader of the Fire Mages had been turned into a Red Arcanian, and two of the others had been turned into Fiery Armour Animuses, based on an Infernal Armor Animus. The rest of the group fled, but didn’t get very far given they were on fire. Only one of them survived long enough to die in the marketplace.The summoned thing was opposed by a magic item which created a snowstorm, and was ejected up through the building. Akorros is now knee-deep in snow, and the thing has disappeared.

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