To the Serpent Hills

Waterdeep
As the heroes settled back into the safehouse in the North Ward, Leosin told them they’d have a few days to kill while the various members of the Council Quiet could get organized for a formal debriefing. During that time, Flint used his magic to identify the properties of both the magic sword and the dragon mask they’d salvaged from Rezmir’s ashes. Both items were extremely powerful, and no one in the party felt particularly comfortable handling them, let alone attuning to them. They all agreed to hand them over to Lady Laeral.

On the way to the meeting, Keo spotted a cloaked figure watching them from some distance ahead. When the figure spotted him looking in his direction, it turned and pushed off into the crowd. Keo caught a glimpse of a fiendish tail swishing out from under the cloak. His thoughts turned immediately to Barakis, the tiefling cultist that had tried to murder him several times during the caravan journey. Signalling to his companions, Keo followed the tiefling all the way down the city’s main thoroughfare and into a side court known as Virgin’s Square.

Here, amidst a crowded night market, the heroes discovered that the figure was indeed Barakis! Keo also spotted Umara, the cultist guard who’d accused him of murdering one of her companions, lurking nearby, pretending to examine a merchant’s wares while keeping an eye on the party.

Barakis demanded that the heroes give him the maks they’d stolen from Rezmir. If they refused, everyone in the square would die. The heroes flatly refused. A fight ensued. Barakis ordered his men, dispersed among the crowd, to start their slaughter. In the end, five cultists and twenty innocent bystanders lay dead. Flint had inadvertently set fire to a number of stalls, and Barakis had managed to escape in the confusion. Though the city guards detained the heroes for questioning, word of the attack quickly reached Leosin’s ears and he was able to arrange their release.

When the heroes finally reached the Yawning Portal Inn, the faction leaders were all eager to learn more about the attack. Everyone agreed that the mask seemed particularly important and that it should be kept hidden away somewhere. If the heroes kept it, as Roscoe desired, the cultists would be constantly attacking them in order to get it back. In the end, Roscoe reluctantly agreed to go along with the rest of the party’s wishes and agreed to hand it over to Lady Laeral for safekeeping. Laeral also offered to take the sentient sword off their hands in exchange for some other magic items.

The heroes then gave a full report on their activities from the Mere of Dead Men through to Skyreach Castle. The leaders were particularly impressed that the party had not only befriended a cloud giant but had also bested an adult white dragon!

Leosin reported that the Harpers’ interrogation of Azbara Jos had not been particularly fruitful, unfortunately, although they had been able to get him to confirm that Rath Modar was the leader of his splinter sect, known as the Thayan Resurrection, and that they had allied with the Cult of the Dragon in hopes that Tiamat would repay them by helping overthrow Szass Tam.

Downtime
After the debrief, the heroes found themselves with some free time. With winter drawing near, and having suffered the loss of both Skyreach Castle and the treasure that had been aboard it, the cult and its leaders went to ground. Lady Remallia Haventree, the elven High Harper, invited the heroes over to her manor for dinner, where she introduced them to her husband, Lord Arthagast Ulbrinter. An influential noble in the city (and rumored to be one of the city’s Masked Lords), Ulbrinter expressed his desire to “wine and dine” the heroes among the city’s elite circles in order to drum up support for their cause.

Keo politely declined, opting to travel with Delaan Winterhound to Goldenfields, where he spent some time catching up with Imsa and reverse-engineered the magical cult emblem he’d claimed from Rezmir’s ashes. He was able to craft himself a new one in the form of the Emerald Enclave insignia. Looping it onto a large leather thong so it would still fit around his neck while in bear form, he was pleased to find that it magically enhanced his teeth and claws as he’d hoped it would.

As Imsa was just in the process of concluding her initial druidic training, she was able to rejoin Keo as his apprentice and accompany him back to Waterdeep. Before doing so, however, the goliath spent some time training to improve his powers of observation with Emerald Enclave operatives. [DM note: I am intending to give the PCs each a bonus feat at some point, and Keo’s player has chosen to take Observant.]

Meanwhile, Skie met with Lady Laeral in private to inform her that Mara had perished at the hands of her former friend Talis and that she, Mara’s ancestor, had taken possession of her body. She confirmed her desire to continue Mara’s mission and pledged her allegiance to the Lords’ Alliance. She then took a fast ship down the coast to Baldur’s Gate to break the news to Mara’s family. She spent the rest of her downtime training with Lords’ Alliance operatives upon returning to Waterdeep. [DM note: Skie’s player hasn’t yet decided which feat she’d like to take.]

Flint spent a good deal of his downtime copying spells from the spellbooks he’d acquired on his adventures into his own book before turning them over to his Harper colleagues. Leosin also arranged for him to train with a Harper spellslinger on the art of magical sniping. [DM note: Flint will be taking Spell Sniper as his bonus feat.]

Flint also discovered a newfound obsession with alcohol. In fact, he found that once he started drinking, it became very difficult for him to stop. It wasn’t long before Lord Ulbrinter stopped inviting him along to his little soirees. [DM note: This is the cost of Flint’s resurrection.]

As for Roscoe, well … the less said about his downtime activities the better. Suffice it to say that he spent a good deal of time learning new tips and tricks from Zhentish agents based in Waterdeep. He also made sure not to miss any of Lord Ulbrinter’s parties.

A Message Arrives
Finally, in the midst of a snowy winter, Flint received an unexpected magical message from none other than Talis! Using the sending spell, Talis told the dwarf: “You want to catch a wyrmspeaker? You’re in luck! Varram the White has been spotted near Boareskyr Bridge. Make haste lest he disappear again!”

Flint quickly informed his companions and they went and told Leosin, who called an emergency session of the Council Quiet to discuss the matter. While some were concerned that it might be a trap, all agreed that it was worth following up. Lady Laeral teleported the party to the middle of Boareskyr Bridge. Getting their bearings through the snow, they headed to the south end of the bridge and entered the tent city situated outside the walls of the fort that soldiers from nearby Elturgard had recently rebuilt. At the pavilion inn, they discovered that the Halfling proprietor remembered seeing a dwarf matching Varram’s description. She regarded him as something of a hero, though, because he’d attacked a yuan-ti spy that had been lurking in the inn. She added that they last anyone had seen of him, was when he’d taken his heavily-cloaked entourage north along the river.

The heroes hired a human guide named Elowyn and headed upriver themselves. Along the way, they met a patrol of Elturgard soldiers who said they’d seen a dwarf and some rough barbarian types traveling upriver in canoes a few days earlier.

Emboldened, the heroes pressed on through the rough wilderness of the Serpent Hills. Elowyn was able to steer them clear of the area’s worst dangers. After a few days, they came across a set of canoes, abandoned on the north side of the river. Their guide found them a safe place to ford and they headed deeper into the hills, hot on Varram’s trail. On the seventh day out from the bridge, they came to a canyon in which lay the ruins of an ancient town.

The Tomb of Diderius
Searching around the ruins, they found some freshly-dug graves and an abandoned campsite. Roscoe noticed some massive, partially broken statues flanking an old path and approached them. He was surprised when the statues moved to face him then spoke, asking him if he sought wisdom or knowledge. Thinking quickly, the halfling chose knowledge, which seemed to satisfy the statues, which reverted to their previous position.

Soon after, Elowyn departed with her payment, and the party passed between the statues to investigate a tomb in the cliffside beyond them. Someone had placed a ladder against the cliff to reach the tomb entrance. Roscoe got Imsa to turn him invisible so he could climb up and look around more safely. The tomb appeared to be full of shiny treasures, but as Roscoe’s greedy little fingers made to pick out a few pieces, they turned out to be illusory! In truth, the tomb was completely empty. Everything had been looted long ago. The only real thing in the tomb was a stone door in an alcove at the back.

Roscoe discovered that the door had been forced open recently. Popping on his magical nightvision goggles, he pushed the door open and peered into the darkness beyond, spying a series of cowled statues lining a corridor that led to another door. As he crept into the corridor, a thought came to him that he should avoid looking into the darkness inside the statues’ hoods, as some things were not meant to be known by mortals. As he reached the midpoint, the robed statues all turned their empty cowls in his direction, making it harder for him to not look. He managed it somehow, though, as did his companions, once he’d warned them of the danger.

In the next room, they found a tile mosaic on the floor that depicted an armored knight battling a chimera. A ledge ran around the room near the ceiling, and there were two doors and a sloped passage leading out. The door to the left bore the word “SAFE” written in chalk on it. The door directly opposite was bulging outwards.

Roscoe chose to check the door marked “SAFE” first. As he crossed the mosaic, Keo noticed that the chimera had started moving. It clawed its way up out of the mosaic, turning into a barely three-dimensional creature that proceeded to breathe fire on everyone before swooping up to perch on the ledge.

The tile chimera proved to have more bark than bite, as it did not breathe on them again. Despite being thin in one dimension, the heroes had little trouble scattering its tiles around the room each time it swooped down to claw and bite at them.

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