About Estelle Delsarte
Versatile Vials. A small, unassuming alchemist’s shop in the Sud Rivière. It was a staple of the district, having been around since long before the Red Revolution began. As had its owner, Estelle Delsarte. A somber-looking elf of indeterminate age, she had kept her head down throughout the years. No one ever bothered to ask about her history. She was simply...there. As she always had been, as she seemingly always would be. Councils rose and fell, but Versatile Vials remained.
Of course, every shop once had an opening day, and every story has a beginning. Estelle’s beginning, as far as she’s concerned, started in 4578 when she was found wandering alone in the wilds by two traveling merchants. Her birth parents might have been from Kyonin. Or maybe they were wanderers themselves, hailing from a much more distant land. Estelle doesn’t know, nor does she care. All she knows is that Évrard and Adélie Delsarte loved her dearly, and were the best parents she could have asked for.
As for Versatile Vials, it was opened in 4592 by a beaming Évrard. The shop was his pride and joy, the physical proof that the once-impoverished Delsartes had finally made it to the middle class. In 4625, when Évrard lay on his deathbed, Estelle took his hand and promised that she would take care of Versatile Vials after he passed.
It’s a promise she’s kept for over eighty years.
When the Red Revolution began, Estelle took no part in it. It didn’t matter to her whose portrait was stamped on the coins she handled. When the First Revolutionary Council was ended by the Final Blades, Estelle shrugged her shoulders and kept working. When the next council was also overthrown, she began to grow concerned at the continued instability. Still, she was an elf in a human land. She could afford to be patient.
(Although instability was bad for business.)
‘Patient’ doesn’t mean ‘inactive.’ As the years passed thieves and looters occasionally set their sights on Estelle’s shop, only to find out the hard way that the knives she carried weren’t for show. Meanwhile rumors began circulating of a new vigilante in the area. A few people swore that a cloaked figure had saved them from being mugged. Some of the more brutal Caydogs simply...disappeared.
(Violent thugs in the neighborhood were bad for business.)
Versatile Vials continued to do well for several decades. Catering to neither the rich nor the poor, Estelle handily avoided the attention of the various political groups in power. People knew that her wares were good, but the best part of Versatile Vials was its, well, versatility. Estelle kept some standard items always in stock, (minor healing potions would never go out of style), but if she didn’t already have what you needed? She’d politely listen to your request, and if at all possible, she’d make it for you. If not, she’d tell you that up front. No chicanery, no tricks. That level of service kept Versatile Vials afloat when many other businesses in the area were struggling.
She was even able to expand, upgrading her garden into a greenhouse and hiring a few assistants. An apprentice alchemist managed the mundane crafting, leaving her able to focus on more difficult requests. A few neighborhood adolescents were paid to clean, garden, and occasionally cook. (Estelle had a bad habit of forgetting to eat when in the middle of an interesting project.)
Still, despite Estelle’s best efforts, she knew she couldn’t keep going forever. Fewer and fewer people could afford her wares. It was almost impossible to get some of the rarer ingredients she needed these days, no matter how many traders she bribed. If Versatile Vials was to survive, the Red Revolution had to stop.
So be it.
(Constant revolution was bad for business.)
Outwardly Estelle continued running Versatile Vials nearly the same as always. She did use her savings to hire a few more people, including an accountant who could serve as a manager if needed. Ostensibly this was to give her more time for her own research.
Meanwhile she began privately sending out feelers among the other merchants in Isarn. Over the past eighty years she’d made at least a passing acquaintance with nearly all of them. She’d shopped at their stores, seen them at guild meetings, invested in their businesses. 50 years of revolution meant that there was always someone dissatisfied with the current government.
She just had to find out who, so she could work with them to ensure that this revolution would be the last.
Estelle is rather plain-looking for an elf. She keeps her dark hair short, wears minimal jewelry, and tends to wear differently-colored variations of the same practical outfit. Rather than bother keeping up with the ever-changing tides of fashion, she bought a set of Sleeves of Many Garments. (Much more practical than having different outfits for every occasion.) She loves pockets, and has sewn a secret inside pocket into all of her clothes.
In her vigilante persona she always wears a a burglar's outfit with a large hooded cloak to cover her ears. Elves aren’t that common in Isarn, and she wants to be sure she can’t easily be identified. She has no interest in being famous; she just wants to keep her neighborhood as safe as possible. Sometimes that means offering a small loan to keep a struggling business afloat. Sometimes that means stabbing a mugger and dumping the corpse in the river. Whatever it takes.
Vigilante Name: Le Fantôme
Area of Renown: Sud Rivière
Criminal Activity: Muggings
Le Fantôme's signature weapons are a pair of masterwork kukris. The blades are darkened so as not to risk catching any light. A few rescued victims swear that there is a feather pattern on the blades.
The only other easily disguishable item Le Fantôme wears is a pendant with a holy symbol of Tanagaar.
Le Fantôme never speaks to either their target or the victim. Once the target is dead, they begin walking off in an unhurried manner. If the victim pursues, they'll see Le Fantôme turn a corner and disappear.
(Mechanically, Le Fantôme takes full advantage of their extracts of invisibility and always has at least one on hand before starting a hunt.)
”Papa! Papa! Come and see, I think I did it!”
Évrard indulgently went over to his daughter’s worktable. Estelle had been insisting for weeks that she was old enough to learn how to “Make stuff, just like you!” Considering how stubbornly she was clinging to the idea, (if he didn’t know better he’d swear she inherited that from him), he’d finally given her a few ingredients and the simplest recipe he knew. Soothe syrup. Not many ways that could go wrong, even with an eight year old making it.
(Thirty year old. It was hard to remember that. The child currently standing on a stool so she could reach the table was probably only a decade or so younger than him.)
Beaming, Estelle handed him a vial of blue liquid. Évrard’s eyebrows rose as he examined it. Not quite the same color as when he made it, but close. Tentatively unstopping the vial, he gave it a sniff. Smelled fine too.
”It’s right, isn’t it? I followed all the instructions exactly.” Estelle’s face was expectant.
Only one way to be sure. Évrard took a single, tiny sip. The sweet taste spread across his tongue.
He stoppered the vial, and put it carefully on the table. Then, and only then, did he give into the impulse to lift his genius daughter into the air and spin her around.
”It’s exactly right, sweetheart! You did it!” He set her down, then gestured to the vial with a flourish. ”Finest soothe syrup I ever did see!”
Estelle giggled. ”I knew it! I knew I could do it!”
”Come on, let’s go show your Mama.” He took her hand and began leading her up the stairs.
”Can I try a different recipe tomorrow?”
Évrard opened his mouth, then closed it again. His immediate impulse was to say yes. He always did have trouble refusing Estelle anything she wanted. And she had done a remarkable job on the soothe syrup. Another day or two of simple projects couldn’t hurt.
But he knew his daughter, and he knew that look in her eyes. She wouldn’t be satisfied by a day or two.
Torn, Évrard fell back on the answer familiar to parents everywhere. ”We’ll see. I’ll have to talk to your Mama first.” Estelle pouted, but didn’t protest.
By this time they’d made it to the storefront. Adélie was busy with a customer, but she flashed them a quick smile. Estelle waited patiently for Adélie to finish, then ran to her while brandishing the vial. ”Mama! Look what I made!”
Adélie was no alchemist, but she knew good products when she saw them. ”Well done darling! Did you have fun?”
”Yes! I want to try again tomorrow! Can I Mama? I promise I’ll work hard.”
Now that was a tactic familiar to parents everywhere, although usually Estelle was smart enough to wait until the second parent was out of the room first. She must really be excited. Évrard put a hint of steel in his voice. ”I already said we’d see. It’s nearly time for dinner; go wash up.” Estelle pouted again, but left the room to do as she was told. She was a good girl. Most of the time.
Adélie frowned. ”I suppose it’s not as simple as having her make soothe syrup again?”
”I doubt it. She’s...I’ve never seen someone succeed on their first try of crafting something. You know Estelle, she likes to challenge herself. Give her a book to read, she finishes it and immediately wants something more in-depth. Let her climb a tree and she runs to the tallest one she can find. When she asked me, she specified a ‘different’ recipe. She’s not going to be satisfied with soothe syrup for more than a day or so before she’s clamoring to learn something new.”
”How many recipes do you know that she could try?”
”Hmmm.” Évrard thought about it for a minute. ”Without supervision? Maybe four or five. The problem is that most of them won’t be as easy to sell as soothe syrup. I could give her the ingredients to make applecheek without fear of anything exploding, but that doesn’t mean anyone would buy it.”
Adélie eyes flicked to the side, her lips pursed in thought. ”Our profit margins aren’t high enough to use ingredients on products that won’t sell. Not regularly, anyway.”
”That’s what I thought.” Évrard sighed. ”I’ll have to tell her ‘no’.”
”You said ‘without supervision.’” Adélie was speaking slowly, clearly turning an idea over in her mind. ”What about with supervision?”
Évrard blinked in surprise, not sure where Adélie was going with this. ”I have to work on what the shop needs; I can’t spend too much time supervising Estelle’s projects.”
”Not what I meant. What if she helped you with whatever you were working on? Became your apprentice, essentially.”
”T...t-that’s…” Évrard spluttered. ”Eight years old is far too young for an apprenticeship!”
”But she’s not eight years old, is she?” Adélie looked at him again, her eyes sad. ”She’s thirty, at least. If we wait until she looks old enough, we’ll both be gone. I’m not suggesting we make it her entire life. Just...have her help. Set her to chopping ingredients. Show her the dirty parts of alchemy as well as the fun. If she still wants to continue, then...then we’ll have taught her a trade. While we can teach her a trade.”
(They hadn’t known, when they’d found her. Oh they’d known that elves lived longer than humans, of course, but they’d never seen an elf child. Never imagined just how slowly they grew. By the time they’d realized, the thought of traveling to Kyonin and trying to find her some other home, some other parents, was like a dagger in their hearts. Even so, they’d tentatively broached the idea to Estelle. Asked if she’d like to go live with children like her. She’d become hysterical, clinging to them and begging them not to send her away, she’d be good, she promised. They’d never suggested it again.)
Now Adélie was giving voice to the fear they'd both tried to ignore. Évrard imagined Estelle, his sweet, inquisitive, genius Estelle, begging on the streets. Just another urchin. No one to take care of her, and no way to take care of herself.
His own master wouldn’t even have considered an apprentice younger than sixteen, (and had frequently groused that he should make it twenty-five, given how foolish adolescents could be). But…
Évrard ran a hand through his graying hair, then nodded. ”You’re right, of course.” He pulled Adélie close for a quick kiss.
Adélie smiled at him, that bright smile he’d fallen in love with. ”I always am.”
Estelle’s hands shook as she applied her makeup, and she had to start over. Careless. You need steady hands in this business. Get yourself together.
She could hear Andre puttering around downstairs, doing some last-minute cleaning. It was amazing how much dust could accumulate in a week. She could almost hear Évrard complaining about it. ”Dust is bad for business. Makes customers think you’re sloppy. I know you hate cleaning, but if you want to be an alchemist, you have to be a businessperson, not just a crafter. Image is everything.”
Papa won’t ever complain about anything ever again. There it was. The thought that kept making her hands shake.
It wasn’t as though Évrard’s death had been a surprise. He’d been declining for years now. It had started small, forgetting where he’d left a tool, or giving her the same instructions twice. But it kept getting worse. She’d had to grab him to keep him from adding the wrong ingredient to a volatile concoction. He’d yelled at her then, screaming that he was the master here, damnit, he knew what he was doing! Adélie had needed to come downstairs and calm him down.
That had been Évrard’s last day in the lab.
Focus. She breathed deeply in and out, steadying herself as she’d been taught. Then she began carefully reapplying her makeup. A little contouring. Some dark eyeshadow. Lipstick. All things she hated, but they were necessary. She was the owner of Versatile Vials now, and customers needed to see her that way. She didn’t have to look old, no one could really tell an elf’s age anyway. But she needed to not look like a child. No one would take her seriously if she looked fourteen.
Admittedly, most of their regulars knew that she’d been doing the crafting for years now, and were pleased enough with the quality to not care. Having Andre helped with new clients. If they asked he could truthfully say that the master alchemist was unavailable, and most people were happy enough to let him take their orders. Worst case scenario Adélie would get involved. She’d given up running the shop to take care of Évrard, but she’d never lost her knack for talking people into doing what she wanted while persuading them it was their own idea.
Sometimes though, despite their best efforts, a new client would insist on talking to the crafter directly. Usually because they were trying to discreetly commission something. Or because they had an inflated idea of their own importance. Either way, those were often the best-paying jobs, and they’d lost several early on because the client had refused to deal with ‘some slip of a girl.’
Hence the makeup. Image is everything.
Applying the finishing touches, Estelle looked at herself critically. She and Adélie had spent a long time coming up with this appearance. The makeup added years to her face. Her favored artisan’s outfit was fine, customers liked seeing a craftsperson that looked like they actually crafted, but they’d included some subtle padding to give her curves she didn’t yet possess. They’d fought over the hairstyle. Estelle’s preference was to chop it all off, while Adélie insisted that long hair made a woman look more mature. Eventually they’d compromised on a high bun, with a few wisps framing her face.
The overall effect made her look ten years older. Or maybe sixty, by elf standards.
Estelle went downstairs, nodding a greeting to Andre as she passed. She reached out to open the front door, then hesitated. It shouldn’t feel so momentous. She’d been effectively running the shop for years. But...this would be the first day that she owned it.
I’ll take care of Versatile Vials for you, Papa. I promise.
With one last deep breath, she pasted a friendly smile on her face and opened the door.
Estelle was sitting behind the counter, doing some basic bookkeeping while waiting for the bell that would signal the end of the work day, when the thug walked in.
A very obvious thug. With a symbol of the…oh, whatever the newest gang was, on his arm. (The Ghosts, maybe?) Estelle sighed, and closed her book. ”Can I help you?”
The thug grinned at her, displaying a few yellowing teeth. ”Sure can, missy. Time to pay up.”
Ever since the Red Revolution had begun, the gangs had become bolder. Individual thieves could be scared away by the longbow under the counter, but gang members would just come back with more people. So when a thug walked into your shop and demanded protection money, it was usually best to just give it to them. It wasn’t like asking the City Guard would help; they were worse than useless.
”Right. Of course. For your...protection.” Estelle reached into the cashbox and dug out a few gold pieces. ”Here. Payment for the month.”
The thug greedily grabbed the gold, then looked back at her. ”Price went up. That ain’t enough no more.”
Estelle let her gaze drop, acting cowed. "H...h-how much do you need? I might could scrounge tog-”
”Hundred gold. Now.”
Shocked, Estelle’s gaze shot back up. This had become routine. You gave a few gold. If they blustered, you gave a few more while complaining about how bad business was. If they still blustered, you acted terrified, let them push you around a little, promised them more next time. The gang leaders didn’t want to actually drive anyone out of business; they’d lose their steady income.
Suddenly demanding one hundred gold?! That wasn’t in the script.
Either this thug wasn’t with the Ghosts, (unlikely, wearing their symbol without being part of the gang was a death sentence), or he was but needed money badly enough to break with tradition.
Which made him very, very dangerous.
The thug drew his sword, waving it at her threateningly. ”I said one hundred gold, b%++!! You tryin’ to cheat the Ghosts?”
”I...no of course not, I just-”
”Then get me my money!”
Estelle’s mind raced. She could afford it. But giving him that much with no forewarning would set a dangerous precedent. Whatever money problems he had weren’t likely to go away. He’d come back demanding more.
However...he might not be here ‘officially.’ And even if he was, if he simply...disappeared…
”I...let me see how much I have in the safe. It’s in the storeroom.” Estelle came out from around the counter, pointedly showing her empty hands. The thug followed close behind her as she stepped into the storeroom.
Estelle let her knives drop from her wrist sheathes into her hands as she whirled around. Her elbow hit the thug in the gut, making him double over. The knife in her left hand kept going with the motion, making a thin slice across his abdomen. The one in her right caught him in the neck. He never stood a chance.
Just like her Mama had taught her.
”You make them think they’ve got you. You catch them off guard. Then you finish it. Understand? If you pull a knife on someone, you’d better be prepared to kill them. Because if you aren’t, they’ll kill you.”
”I understand, Mama,” Estelle whispered, as the thug dropped to the floor.
Numbly, she made her way to the front door and locked it. Couldn’t have anyone walking in while there was a body on the floor. She dragged the body further into the storeroom and closed that door as well.
How did one dispose of a body? She turned her mind to the task, relieved to have something to think about that wasn’t what she’d just done. At least, not exactly.
Simplest solution: Dump the body elsewhere. In the river if possible. Complications: she’d need to be certain she wasn’t seen.
Time limit: About twelve hours before her apprentice arrived and the new work day began.
Resources: Whatever she could make between now and time to dump the body.
She began flipping through her formula book. The most useful one seemed to be one that would improve her awareness, making it easier to notice (and avoid) any patrols or roving gang members that might be about.
As for other, more mundane substances, she needed some cleaner. There was one she knew could dissolve blood. Much easier than trying to mop it away.
It would take her about eight hours to make the cleaner. That left two hours to dispose of the body and another two hours to clean the floor.
Focus on what's necessary. Do what has to be done.
The thought briefly crossed her mind that this would be a lot easier if she'd been able to kill the thug before he entered her store. She could have planned it out. Gotten away from Versatile Vials first.
Something to consider. Later. When there wasn't a body on the floor.
Right now, she had work to do.
Female Elf Investigator (Empiricist) 5/Vigilante (Avenger) 5
LN Medium Humanoid (Elf)
Init +3; Perception +14 (+2 vs traps)
AC 19, touch 14, flat-footed 16 (+3 dex, +1 deflection, +5 armor)
HP 35 (5d8)
Fort +4, Ref +8, Will +5
Saving Throw Bonuses: +1 Reflex to avoid traps, +2 Will against illusions
Ranged: Composite Longbow +8 (1d8, x3)
Melee: War Razor +8 (1d4 +2, 19-20/x2)
Initial Point Buy Ability Scores:
Str 14, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 12
Ability Scores After Racial/Level 4 Adjustments:
Base Atk +5; CMB +8; CMD 20
Persuasive (Bonus Campaign Feat): +2 bonus on Diplomacy and Intimidate checks
Skill Focus - Craft (Alchemy) (Bonus Racial Feat): +3 bonus on one skill (+6 at 10 ranks)
Two-Weapon Fighting (Level 1): Reduce two-weapon fighting penalties
Double Slice (Bonus Feat from Vigilante Talent - Lethal Grace): Add your Str bonus to off-hand damage rolls
Brew Potion (Level 3): Create magic potions
Extra Investigator Talent (Level 3 Bonus Campaign Feat): Gain an additional investigator talent
Combat Reflexes (Level 5): Make additional attacks of opportunity
90 ranks total: 17 skill ranks per level (6 1st class, 3 2nd class, 4 background, 4 Int.) + 5 FCBs
Background skills in italics.
* Free +1d6 to roll from Investigator talents.
Acrobatics: +8 (+3 class skill, +3 DEX, +2 ranks)
Class and Racial Features:
Standard Class Features: Alchemy, Inspiration, Trapfinding, Keen Recollection, Trap Sense, Studied Combat, Studied Strike
Empiricist Class Features: Ceaseless Observation, Unfailing Logic
Chosen Investigator Talents:
Favored Class - Investigator:
Standard Class Features: Dual Identity, Seamless Guise, Unshakable, Startling Appearance
Vigilante Specialization: Avenger
Chosen Social Talents:
Chosen Vigilante Talents:
Standard Racial Traits: +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, –2 Constitution, Medium, Normal Speed, Low-Light Vision, Elven Immunities, Keen Senses
Alternate Racial Trait - Human-Raised: Forlorn gain Skill Focus as a bonus feat. This racial trait replaces elven magic and weapon familiarity.
Grants +2 natural armor bonus and a +4 alchemical bonus to Dexterity, a -2 penalty to Wisdom
Level 1 (5/day):
Comprehend Languages: You understand all languages.
Crafter’s Fortune: Subject gains +5 on next Craft check.
Cure Light Wounds: Cures 1d8 damage + 1/level (max +5).
Detect Secret Doors: Reveals hidden doors within 60 ft.
Disguise Self: Changes your appearance.
Enlarge Person: Humanoid creature doubles in size.
Expeditious Retreat: Your base land speed increases by 30 ft.
Heightened Awareness: Your recall and ability to process information improve.
Identify: Gives +10 bonus to identify magic items.
Monkey Fish: Gain a climb speed and a swim speed of 10 ft. for a time.
Shield: Invisible disc gives +4 to AC, blocks magic missiles.
True Strike: +20 on your next attack roll.
Keen Kukri (attuned): 2,308gp
Masterwork Kukri: 308gp
War Razor (2): 16gp
Chain Shirt (attuned): 100gp
Composite Longbow: 100gp
Arrows (40): 2gp
Versatile Vials: 3470gp
Remaining Gold: 968gp, 2sp, 3cp
Buildings and Organizations:
Versatile Vials - Alchemist’s Shop
Create: 72 Goods, 5 Influence, 64 Labor, 1 Magic (3470gp)
Rooms: 1 Alchemy Lab (upgraded with 1 Fortification), 1 Bath, 1 Bedroom, 1 Defensive Wall, 1 Greenhouse, 1 Kitchen, 1 Lavatory, 1 Sitting Room, 1 Storage, 1 Storefront, 1 Secret Room (upgraded with well-hidden secret door)
Craftspeople - Alchemists
Estelle’s current team of alchemists are past the apprentice stage, but don’t have the capital to go into business for themselves. They normally handle all the mundane crafting. Since joining the Conspiracy, she’s begun turning over patron requests to them as well, (so long as it’s within their skill level).
The Lackeys are mostly young people from the neighborhood. Estelle’s traditionally hired one or two to clean, garden, etc. Since joining the conspiracy she’s hired a few more to help out with running the shop.
Manager - Accountant
Gerlach Everast is a middle-aged dwarf with a perpetual scowl on his face and a mind full of numbers. While he makes his home in the Sud Rivière, he has several close bonds with Torag’s Children and routinely visits the Temple for services.