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.
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.
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.