On the Road Again

The Cult Arrives
After a few more days of rest, the heroes were contacted by Erevan’s urchin army. Earlier that day, a palanquin carrying a mysterious figure with a “gruff but feminine” voice had arrived at Selebon’s wagon shop in Blackgate. The urchins had caught a few glimpses of something purple through the curtains. After an intermediary made a purchase on behalf of the figure, the palanquin was then taken back through the city and down to the docks, where it was carried onto a ship that set sail shortly thereafter.

The heroes promptly sought out Selebon, who confirmed that someone had paid for three wagons in coin. The wagons had already been delivered to a warehouse across the district. Selebon also informed them that the next caravan had begun assembling, so the group decided to pay a visit to the assembly yard first. After a short discussion, the group agreed that it would be smartest to hire themselves out individually as guards, rather than sticking together as a group, in order to belay the cultists’ suspicions as much as possible.

To that end, Erevan approached Edhelri Lewel and took up her offer of employment. Erevan impressed the stately moon elf enough that she put him in charge of her small contingent of guards, one of whom was a young, inexperienced human woman named Orvustia. Erevan took an instant liking to her, determined to show her the ropes and help her survive the long journey to Waterdeep. Edhelri also revealed that she had been chosen to be the caravan master for the journey, in large part because of her decades of experience.

Flint, meanwhile, went over to see Lai Angesstun, the gold dwarf merchant he’d met at Coran’s party. The older dwarf hired Flint on as a second bodyguard.

Mara decided that most of the merchants were beneath her and instead approached a rather grumpy-looking nobleman who introduced himself as Aldor Urnpoleshurst. A lawyer by trade, he was looking for a bodyguard to keep him safe on his journey to anywhere that wasn’t Baldur’s Gate. Although he was clearly an unpleasant fellow, Mara figured she’d rather work for a fellow patriar than a commoner, so she signed the lawyer’s contract.

Keo found work as a guard with an eternally optimistic human merchant named Samardag the Hoper. The man was hauling fragile porcelain, which he was absolutely positive would survive the journey intact. Keo was not so sure …

Several others would also be joining the caravan:

  • A human named Lasfelro who tended not to say much and whose wagon was guarded by a gargoyle
  • A human named Pavel Borsk who rudely rebuffed all attempts to ascertain what he was carrying
  • A haughty merchant named Morn Amblecrown who was hauling preserved fruits from the Sea of Fallen Stars region
  • Devlin and Tilda Appledown, newlyweds who were heading north to start a new life in Red Larch
  • Nyerhite Verther, an obese silk merchant
  • Beyd Sechepol, a roguish half-elf who would be running a mobile tavern along the journey
  • And a number of miscellaneous individuals who would be traveling with the caravan, including Green Imsa and a tiefling named Barakis

Once the PCs had made the rounds and found gainful employment, they reconvened and headed over to the warehouse indicated by Selebon. Flint cast invisibility on Erevan, who went sneaking inside. He found a hooded figure and two dragon cultists hiding in a loft, but the warehouse was otherwise empty – the wagons had already been loaded and sent to the assembly yard. Of the various merchants and travelers the group had met there, which ones were the cultists? Pondering this question, Erevan snuck back out and gave his companions the downlow. They opted not to spring the trap and headed back to the Stormwind manor.

Ambush
The next day, Erevan received a missive from one of the urchins in his employ: an anonymous note bearing the mark of the Harpers, asking Erevan and Flint to meet someone at a warehouse in Blackgate to receive information about the cult. Suspecting another trap, the group nevertheless sought out the warehouse (a different one to the one they’d inspected before). Arriving early, Erevan again snuck inside invisibly to have a look around. He spotted nothing out of the ordinary but decided against prodding the mounds of hay in the loft above just in case. He returned to his companions and they set up a stakeout, hoping to see who it was they were meeting. Much to their surprise, a light started blinking on and off from inside!

Erevan and Flint ventured in, where they found a cloaked figure with a magical light glowing behind her head. As they approached, the figure greeted them in a familiar, if somewhat slurred, voice. As the figure removed its hood, the pair were taken aback … it was Mondath!

Except her face had been horribly disfigured, and she appeared to be blind in one eye. It looked like someone had thrown acid in her face (or, Flint thought to himself, spat acid on it). Erevan remarked that he knew he should have checked the piles of hay as the two cultists he’d spotted in the other warehouse emerged from behind some crates to cut off their escape. Mondath proclaimed that the heroes wouldn’t escape this time and began casting a spell to paralyze them in their tracks.

At the same time, some other cultists came hustling down the alleyway outside and spotted Mara. She drew her greataxe and rushed to attack them. Keo, meanwhile, hearing the commotion inside the warehouse, conjured up two large bears with his newfound magical powers. He directed the bears to follow him as he charged through the warehouse’s front doors just as two more cultists come barging in through the back door.

Unfortunately for Mondath, she had grossly underestimated the heroes’ power. Either that or her boss had overestimated hers. She and her minions were sorely overmatched. The cultists quickly fell to the heroes’ onslaught, while Mondath retreated to the loft, only to find herself pursued by the bears, who climbed up the timber walls. Mara followed up the ladder and chucked her magic greataxe at the fleeing cleric. It was all over quickly, and as Mara approached the dying woman, she heard Mondath murmur, “Tell Talis I’m sorry.”

Bombshell!

Leaving Baldur’s Gate
A few days before the caravan was due to depart, Keo had a strange dream in which he was walking down a country road when a large humanoid shadow fell across his path. As he turned to look, he was surprised to see a rather vicious-looking stag looming behind him!

Finally the big day arrived and the heroes joined their respective employers as the caravan slowly wheeled out of Blackgate, heading north along the Coast Way. The road took them through the Fields of the Dead, a vast fertile plain that was nevertheless only sparsely inhabited, mainly by farmers and shepherds, as well as small tribes of goblinoids and orcs. The fields got their name from the fact that they had served as a battlefield many times over the past few centuries, and thus the area was littered with bones and other detritus from those ancient conflicts.

During the first days of the journey, Keo noticed that the tiefling, Barakis, seemed to be keeping an eye on both him and Flint, seemingly taking note of where they slept and who they talked to and so on. Keo didn’t know much about tieflings, but he had heard rumors about them. He wasn’t sure if Barakis was just being curious or if there was something else going on. He resolved to talk to the tiefling as soon as he got the chance.

Stranded
Late on the fifth day, the caravan was rounding a bend in the road when the sounds of a conflict emanated from up ahead. Edhelri ordered the caravan to halt and then called for volunteers to investigate. Erevan stepped up and asked if he could take Orvustia with him. Flint also stepped forward, as did Keo. Mara made to volunteer, but her employer protested mightily, insisting that she stay close to him in case the caravan was attacked. Mara knew how to talk to toffs, though, and had little trouble sweet-talking Aldor into letting her go. He threatened to dock her pay if anything happened to him, though …

So the heroes, together again, ventured around the bend and found a pair of wagons, peppered with arrows, standing in the middle of the road. The horses were dead, as were two guards. The rest were hidden under the first wagon, taking potshots with crossbows at hobgoblins lurking in the rocks to either side of the road. A perfect ambush spot. The heroes could also see some massive wolves – which turned out to be worgs – up in the rocks with the hobgoblins.

Not caring about becoming targets, the party rushed forward with the intention of helping the merchant and his surviving guards get to safety. The worgs came charging down to engage them in melee, while Flint sent fireballs up into the rocks, quickly incinerating all the hobgoblins. Keo conjured more bears and two of the worgs fell to the larger animals’ attacks. The other two tried to flee but were mercilessly cut down.

Crawling out from under his wagon, the rescued merchant introduced himself as Oyn Evenmor. He admitted it was stupid to try and make the journey alone. Back with the caravan, some of the others agreed to sell him their spare horses so he could continue his journey. The others were also quite impressed by the heroes’ exploits and that evening, the group enjoyed a number of free drinks from Beyd’s mobile tavern.

The Scroll Thief

Before leaving the sewers, the group took a quick look at the contents of the discarded backpack. Along with some coins and the like, they found a note and a map with Ellison’s name on them. He’d been ordered to steal the books and deliver them to someone named “Rythnax” in a swampy area near the mouth of the Chionthar.

The group agreed that they could afford to slow down a bit and headed back into the city. Erevan sought out the bathhouse for a quick cleansing while the others tracked down Keo. After seeing the note and map, Keo responded that his new allies in the Emerald Enclave had made him aware that there was a young black dragon upsetting the natural balance of the nearby swamp. He knew that they’d be keen to have the dragon dealt with and so was quite happy to help his comrades track down the book thief.

After Erevan was satisfied with his state of cleanliness, the heroes gathered their things and then got in touch with their faction contacts to acquire some mounts to take them out of the city and along the southern banks of the river more quickly. As a local, Mara knew the small swampy area – which lay between the river and the edge of the Cloak Wood – was only a half-day’s ride away. They were able to get there before the sun set.

The Swamp
As the party peered into the gloomy swamp from its perimeter, they spied a small rocky hill on an island less than two hundred feet away. Someone was huddled by a small campfire in front of the cave, with what looked to be a large black dog curled up at his feet. Erevan used his magic armor to disguise himself as a cultist and then asked Flint to cast invisibility on him. His ability to sneak up on the campsite was somewhat hampered due to having to wade through ankle-deep swamp water, though, and he soon discovered that the creature by the fire could sense his presence. Not only that, but it was not a dog … rather, it was a small black dragon! Standing up, the dragon stretched out its wings before informing its human companion that they had visitors.

The dragon called out for Erevan to show himself. After he did so, the elf quickly started making up a story about how Mondath’s group had sent him here to check up on things and make sure the delivery was going all right. Ellison and the dragon were at first confused as to how Mondath had known about the deal. Erevan could sense that he wasn’t convincing them … and, sure enough, the dragon announced that it was bored and spewed acid at the elf.

In response, Mara and Keo both went charging into the swamp, weapons at the ready, while Flint stayed out of the mire, casting catapult and giving the dragon a good hard whacking to distract it from finishing off Erevan. This worked like a charm, as the wyrmling roared in anger and leapt into the air, making a beeline for the dwarf. Ellison, meanwhile, indicated to Erevan that he did not wish to fight and slunk into the cave to hide.

As the dragon flew over Mara and Keo, they both took aim with their weapons but missed. Flint’s aim, however, was true, and he slew the dragon with a second casting of catapult! Keo went to have a look at the dead dragon, finding a satchel strapped to its chest that contained the missing pages from the stolen books, wrapped in watertight waxed paper. He also cut off the dragon’s head to take it back to town as proof that the job had been done.

As the others approached, Erevan drank a healing potion before calling out to Ellison to give himself up. The thief reluctantly complied, pleading with the adventurers not to hurt him. He promised that if they would just let him go, they’d never see him again. He wanted nothing more to do with the Cult of the Dragon. The heroes were not so sure and insisted that he let them tie him up. They then pumped him for information.

As it happened, he’d been hired by the cult to help them find the whereabouts of one Xandria Welltran, a human woman who may have actually been a polymorphed green dragon. She lived during the time of Minsc the beloved ranger, and so Ellison had stolen the biography because it contained clues as to where she’d been buried (in a crypt in the cemetery in Tumbledown, as it just so happened). He’d stolen the book of magic because he’d seen it in Aya’s office while training with her and thought it might have some useful information about polymorphing and the like. As for the peerage book, he’d taken that for purely personal reasons – he’d hoped it would prove that the Berengers were a Baldurian patriar family, but he was to have no such luck in that event.

Ellison insisted he knew nothing more than that. He didn’t know why the cult wanted this information, though he was able to tell them that his cult contact was none other than Soares, the elf who’d ambushed the party the day before.

When Ellison had finished his tale, the heroes had a look at the dragon’s small hoard. Mara found a nice suit of splint armor that could be adjusted to fit her nicely. They took some of the coins and other knick-knacks, then settled down for the night.

Late into the night, Ellison slipped free of his bonds and tried to escape. He hadn’t counted on the fact that Erevan, being an elf, didn’t sleep. The heroes soon wrestled him back into his bonds and then, in the morning, dragged him back to town, where they turned him over to Mara’s aunt, Vigilar Allayn Bormul.

Before returning the recovered pages to the library, Erevan and Flint made sure to make copies to pass on to their Harper contacts. And Mara went and had a quiet word with a Lords’ Alliance agent about Lamarck’s false claim to noble status, despite the others wanting to accept his bribe to keep it a secret.

Xandria’s Crypt
After getting a good night’s rest, the heroes trudged back out to Tumbledown, where they sought out Cassyt and asked her to help them locate the crypt of Xandria Welltran. It turned out to be easy enough to find, being a freestanding mausoleum on the surface rather than down in the catacombs. Upon entering, they found it to be a well-appointed crypt with a stone sarcophagus in the middle and a number of colorful paintings depicting Xandria in various locales on the walls.

The heroes pried open the lid and, sure enough, Flint was able to tell almost immediately that the bones inside looked like they’d once belonged to a dragon! What’s more, some of the bones appeared to be missing. Mixed in with the bones were five tiny gems, one for each color of chromatic dragon.

Just then, the outer doors swung shut with a boom and a hissing sound could be heard as a poisonous gas began filling the room. Seeing that the doors would not be easily opened from the inside, they looked around for some other exit. There were scrape marks on the floor around the sarcophagus, suggesting it could be moved, but none of them were able to do so using brute force.

Eventually, the heroes figured out that they could insert the colored gems into little indentations in certain paintings on the wall. The color of dragon that each gem represented had to match something in the picture – so the white gem went in the snowy mountain, while the blue gem went in the lightning storm, and so on. Once the last gem was correctly inserted into the wall, the sarcophagus slid away, revealing a dark staircase. The outer doors also opened, revealing a bewildered-looking Cassyt, who’d been left outside. She remained there as the group descended the stairs.

At the bottom, the group found themselves in a spiralling corridor that led to what appeared to be a throne room. There were three skeletons with swords and dragon-like heads standing guard, but they did nothing as the heroes approached the throne and poked around. Underneath the throne, Erevan found a hidden compartment protected by a poisoned needle, the disabling of which proved to be child’s play for him. Inside the compartment, he found a spell scroll and a gem.

Further along the spiraling corridor, the group came to an old dusty laboratory. After glancing over the books and the alembics and such, they concluded that the laboratory had been used by some kind of necromancer, one who appeared to have been interested in dracoliches! There was a blue bottle with a note about finishing some kind of experiment. The note’s writer warned the reader not to drink the potion. Erevan toysedaround with taking the potion with him, but when Flint revealed that everything in the room was under some kind of magical warding spell, the elf put the bottle back on the table and the group left.

The corridor ended at a chamber containing an old teleportation circle, along with what appeared to be quite the stash of gold coins in an alcove in the south wall. There were also some softly-glowing magic glyphs on the walls, as well as four dead bodies stitched together from various humanoid and draconic parts.

As Flint went to investigate the teleportation circle, the others attended to the bodies. As soon as Flint began unravelling the circle’s magic, however, the glyphs flared up and the bodies rose to attack! They were no match for these seasoned warriors, however, and were all soon lying inert on the ground again. As each one fell, one of the glyphs on the walls went dark as well.

Erevan used mage hand to retrieve one of the coins from the alcove. It turned out to be painted wood. He used his mage hand to sift through the pile to see if there was anything else there, especially because Flint’s detect magic spell was picking something up from that room. When he found nothing, Keo and Flint went into the room and only to find that they could’t get out again because some sort of invisible wall of force had sprung up behind them. Luckily, Flint knew he could get rid of the wall with a magic missile, so they weren’t trapped there for long.

The group returned to the surface and told Cassyt about what they’d found: an old necromancer’s lab, guarded by some minor undead creatures, possibly connected to the old Cult of the Dragon, back when they were more interested in undead dragons than living ones.

Having reached the end of that thread, the heroes ventured back to the Upper City to continue their wait for the contingent of cultists from the Greenfields to arrive with their stolen loot.