An Odd Invitation
The booksellers of Pont Folous are justly famous. Within their dimly-lit shops along the Rue d’Ecribes, a fortunate scholar may discover the lore of a dozen distant lands. Volumes of magical esoterica from the distant capital of the Hegemony, the Rune-Secrets of the Skollen Dwarves, the theology of the Sallvian animal cults, and even the legends of the Faerie Lords may be found in these troves of knowledge, along with rare texts from the other Free Cities, and more common volumes, such as low tales enjoyed by patrician and merchant alike.
After a pleasant day spent among the book stalls and tiny shops of the Rue d’Ecribes, a scholarly player character finds an unusual bookmark hidden among his purchases. A narrow strip of gold attached to a tasseled scarlet cord, the bookmark is inscribed with a decorative spiderweb motif and an invitation: "The Mistress of the Jewel craves that you indulge her with your presence two hours before sunset." Those detecting magical auras will discover that the bookmark is an object of some magical power, allowing its original owner to easily find (and scry upon) its bearer.
Those expressing interest will soon be visited by an unusual young woman, apparently a servant, but clad in intricately-embroidered silken robes. Her long, black hair is gathered in an exotic hairstyle, and those watching her will soon be sure that she is a foreigner. This guide is Fallarlae, an acolyte of the Mistress of the Jewel.
Another woman watches nearby, a rangy Amazon clad in locally-purchased gear. A vicious scar runs across the warrior woman’s nose and along her cheek, and one eye bears sign of an old injury, practically glowing a blood red. This ominous escort speaks little of the common tongue, but watches silently, alert for any threat to her charge: The Mistress of the Jewel would be most upset if anything untoward befell her acolyte.
This pair brings the player characters to the harbor, where a small boat awaits. They refuse to answer any questions, urging the curious to wait a while longer.
Aboard The Jewel
A rake-masted sloop with leg-o-mutton sails, the odd lines of the Jewel mark her as a vessel of the Warm Sea islands. The crimson wood of her hull gleams with fresh varnish, but the canvas of her sails is old and ragged, clearly at the end of its useful lifespan.
Its crew is made of women, exotic beauties with dark hair and almond eyes, Warm Sea islanders clad in foreign garb of scandalously revealing cut. As they help others aboard, their hands show the rough calluses of experienced mariners.
Those who board the Jewel will note that it is a well-maintained and professionally-crewed vessel, with an all-female complement. These sailors are well-armed and wary, well aware that many see a ship of women as a target. These old hands have battled pirates and beasts of the open sea: They aren’t easily intimidated.
(For a clearer idea of the sloop’s construction, see "Bermuda rig" in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bermuda_rig )
The Mistress of the Jewel
Clad in robes of mourning, Lady Araidne is widowed, but remains young and graceful: She shares the exotic beauty that makes her crew so remarkable. Melancholy and lonely responsibility can be seen in the captains sad eyes.
The Lady Ariadne greets the party with stilted formality, struggling to remember the customs of their distant land and avoid giving offense. She speaks of inconsequential things at first, trying to sense the character of those she has invited to her ship. A gifted mage, her bookmark allowed her to study them from the safety of her ship: She hopes that they will aid her.
Thieves attacked her distant home, murderous rogues who brutally slew her servants and stole a set of valuable jewelry. She needs someone local to help recover the jewelry from the thieves. Although her magical gifts let her track the thieves to this distant city, she knows that has no chance to find the jewels without local help. Unfamiliar with local customs, she would be terribly conspicuous. Once rumor spreads of her arrival, those who stole the jewelry will certainly hide or destroy it before she could recover the heirlooms.
She chose to trust the player character because of the books he chose: Ariadne suspects that the thieves are affiliated with a sect that regards such learning as heresy. They would never associate with a scholar interested in such lore.
The Temple of the Glorious Empire is a throwback to ancient days, an unabashedly imperialistic faith that advocates the restoration of the Old Empire. Its adherents believe that all lesser faiths will eventually bow before the might of theirs or be destroyed: They
If it is practical, she would pay extra to have the characters substitute a similar set of jewelry for that which was stolen. This jewelry is similar, but the magic of the will act as a curse against the thieves.
Thieves brutally slew her servants and stole the sacred jewelry Its potent magic allows the wearer to contact the spider goddess.
The Princess of Spiders - leggy, graceful, deceptively calm and capable of giving a withering insult to anyone who offends her, she is familiar with subtle and bizarre poisons. Her diplomacy and magic is similarly subtle, able to lure people into webs of intrigue or of love.
The Cult of the Weaver Goddess
Lady Araidne and her crew are secretly adherents of the forbidden spider "demon"
Expanding the scenario
Local church could suspect the PCs involvement