The Cult Strikes Back

In which the Cult of the Dragon attempts to assassinate our heroes.

As the heroes left the palace after another council meeting, they were approached by two pallid humans in dark robes. Up close, Flint and Roscoe noticed occult symbols stitched into their garments. The men explained that their master, one Lord Volmer, wished to have an audience with them at their earliest convenience. He would await their arrival in his tent, situated on the fields north of the city.

The heroes agreed to visit with the lord, though they chose not to go immediately. They took care of a few errands first and then headed through the Field Ward and out the North Gate, where they discovered a large tent in the Calishite style. The two robed men who had spoken with them previously stood at attention outside the entrance.

Using the hubbub of people coming and going on the road as cover, Flint cast invisibility on Roscoe, and the sneaky halfling crept around the tent and then attempted to slip underneath the canvas at the back. Much to his surprise, he found himself coming out the other side near the guards. It was a magic tent! A fact that Flint confirmed after casting detect magic as a ritual.

Suspicious, the heroes nevertheless walked up to the guards, who ushered them inside. They were somewhat taken aback to find that the interior of the tent was larger than its exterior suggested. There even seemed to be multiple rooms just out of sight. The main room, however, was sumptuously decorated. A robed and goateed man appeared out of a side room and welcomed them.

The man introduced himself as Lord Volmer. He offered them food and drink, delivered by unseen hands. The heroes demurred, remembering what had happened to them the last time they had accepted food from strangers (see their adventures on Oyaviggaton).

Lord Volmer claimed to represent interested parties who wished to see the heroes succeed in preventing Tiamat from entering Faerûn. He explained that she had once ruled Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells, and that her successor, Zariel, wished for her to be gone. To that end, her devils were aiding the renegade Red Wizards of the Thayan Resurrection to bring about the cult’s plans. Another former ruler of Avernus, Bel, was keen to thwart Tiamat’s plan, however. He was willing to lend infernal aid to the alliance’s cause via the Red Wizards still loyal to Szass Tam. Lord Volmer was their representative. He offered the heroes their hearts’ desires in return for accepting the devils’ aid.

The heroes hesitated. Lord Volmer offered to give them a tenday to think it over. Thanking him for his generosity, the heroes departed and headed back into the city.

As they made their way through the jumbled streets of Field Ward, they spotted a familiar face: Barakis, the tiefling dragon cultist from the caravan! He stood, leaning against a well, his arms folded across his chest. When he spotted them, he stepped forward, a smirk on his face. “Hello, friends!” he called. “Severin sends his regards!”

And with that, a whole flight of red dragons thundered overhead and the Field Ward went up in flames. As chaos ensued, a pair of insectoid fiends appeared at either end of the street, wicked-looking tridents held in their pincers. Clouds of poisonous gases billowed out of their mouths and people all around them began to choke to death. Keo recognized them as mezzoloths, fiendish mercenaries with thick carapaces and many immunities and resistances. To top it off, two tattooed Red Wizards began casting spells from open windows to either side of the street. The heroes had been ambushed!

In the chaos that followed, Keo polymorphed Barakis into a field mouse, and the shocked cultist crawled into the well to hide. Keo then turned into a spirit bear (air elemental) to get at the male wizard on an upper floor, but the wizard banished him to a demiplane and escaped. Flint managed to rescue a few people by leading them into a warehouse, but he soon fell to the wizards’ spells and the choking fumes of the mezzoloths.

Roscoe and Skie had their work cut out for them then. Skie tried to sneak up on the female wizard, but she had powerful enchantment magics and was using a poor family as human shields. She forced Skie to attack the father and one of the children, killing them both. Roscoe spent much of his time trying to keep Flint from dying, only to have to fight Barakis when he climbed back out of the well, his polymorphing having worn off when Keo was banished to another plane.

To make matters worse, a young red dragon swooped overhead, lighting the warehouse on fire. The heroes attacked it from range and it flew off down the street. Eventually Keo returned and went to help his comrades. He wished that Imsa had not chosen to end her apprenticeship and head back to Goldenfields. The group could have really used her healing magic at this time!

In the end, all four heroes remained alive. The mezzoloths were both defeated, sent back to the lower plane from which they’d been summoned. Barakis lay dead in the street, amidst the bodies of all the innocent bystanders who’d choked to death. The female Red Wizard also lay dead in the house, but the male wizard had teleported away. Skie had given the bereaved mother and her surviving child a bag of gold coins as a way of saying sorry before sending them on their way.

As the heroes later learned, the attack on the Field Ward had been a distraction, as had other attacks around the city, all designed to draw resources away from the cult’s main goals: assassinate the heroes and reclaim the black dragon mask. While the cult had failed on both counts, the cost was high: the Field Ward was now a smoking ruin, and most of its inhabitants were dead.

In the Dragon’s Den

In which our heroes beard a dragon in its den.

Note: This recap covers two sessions.

While the group rested in Flint’s extradimensional space, Roscoe got restless and decided to go exploring. Flint turned him invisible and the nimble halfling dropped down out of the hole and crept through the dragon’s lair. To the north of the main cavern he found a passage leading to two caves in which laired a number of dragon cultists. Some were asleep in their bunks while others played cards at a table by torchlight.

From that end, he couldn’t quite make out what was on the ledge at the south end of the cavern, so he crept back into the ettin lair and up a narrow sloped passage to a makeshift wooden door. Peering through some cracks and having a good listen, he realized there were more elves on the other side.

Roscoe decided it would be a good idea to try and lure one of the elves out so he could acquire a prisoner for interrogation purposes. Unfortunately, he drew out too many of the elves with his mysterious disembodied voice. This also gained the attention of the cultists, who came running to investigate. As a fight ensued, the rest of the group abandoned the rope trick to assist their comrade.

Skie flew into a rage and slaughtered many of the elves and cultists. The only one that really caused them any problems, though, was an elf mage who turned herself invisible and cast spells at them without reappearing. Keo ultimately dealt with her by transforming into a bear made of whirling air, into which he sucked her still-invisible form and crushed her into a wall.

The few surviving elves attempted to flee back up to their ledge, but the heroes were able to knock one out, finally getting their hostage. But then the dragon struck. A cloud of poisonous gas rushed into the ettin lair, taking out both Keo and Imsa, whose limp forms had to be dragged into the narrow passage to the south, where they were revived with healing potions.

As the heroes caught their breaths, a strangely androgynous yet clearly elven voice called out to them, suggesting they surrender. Instead, the revived their captive elf and interrogated him. He didn’t know much and seemed unwilling to lend any aid, fearing the dragon more than the heroes (despite having witnessed Skie’s murderous rage), but as time ticked away and the heroes began to feel trapped, the elf commented that it looked like they needed a miracle. There just happened to be an old shrine to some human god in an alcove at the back of the ledge. If he were to suggest to his remaining comrades that they not attack the heroes, and if the heroes managed to be stealthy enough, they might be able to get to the shrine and ask the god for help.

Not knowing what else they could do, the heroes jumped at this chance. When they arrived at the shrine, Keo and Imsa recognized it as belonging to the goddess of the druids’ First Circle: Eldath, a deity of streams and waterfalls but also peace and tranquility. The heroes all prayed for her aid, and they all felt an urge to drink some of the water in the shrine’s basin. Immediately they felt relaxed and rested, as if they’d just gotten a good night’s sleep.

Refreshed, the heroes turned to battle the dragon and its mysterious rider. The dragon called upon all its primal magic, filling the ledge with noxious gases and entangling weeds. The heroes struggled to fight their way through to the cultists who’d come up onto the ledge and the dragon, who clung to the ceiling nearby. Keo transformed into a bear made entirely of fire and chased the dragon into the lake in the middle of the main cavern, but only after it had killed its remaining elf slaves out of spite.

The others killed all the cultists except the leader, who turned out to be an elf as well. As the battle swung in the heroes’ favor, the elf leapt off the cliff and flew down to an island in the pond. When the dragon emerged from the water, the elf climbed onto its back and together they fled out into the woods.

After picking themselves up, the heroes went to investigate the rest of the lair. Beyond the cultists’ rooms, they found a larder and what looked to have been the leader’s personal quarters. They found some journals written in Elvish that they put in Flint’s bag for later. They also found a secret passage leading to a hidden shrine to the elven god, Fenmarel Mestarine, which contained another secret passage leading to the dragon’s private sanctum. As Roscoe and the others scooped up coins and trade bars and potions, Keo scouted around and discovered a submerged passage leading from here into the lake in the main cavern – obviously the dragon’s main entryway.

Emerging from the dragon’s lair victorious, the group made their way back to the village of Altand, where they informed Galin that he was free from the cultists’ influence. Flint, feeling guilty about the deaths of all the elves, insisted on telling Galin where to find the bodies so they could be laid to rest properly. Flint also used comprehend languages to translate the journals, which revealed that the cult leader was none other than the cult’s green wyrmspeaker, Neronvain, who also happened to be the long-lost daughter of King Melandrach. The journal outlined her plans to use the cult’s resources to overthrow her father and put herself on the throne. It also mentioned that, because of the loss of the black dragonmask, Severin had ordered all other masks be sent to the Well of Dragons for safekeeping.

Empowered after their defeat of Chuth, Keo cast wind walk himself (rather than having to use a scroll like before) and the group flew quickly back to Waterdeep, where they reported all that had happened. Flint returned Neronvain’s journal to Melandrach, who was both grateful, angry, and ashamed.

The group also did a more thorough debrief on their results with the dragon council. Most of the delegates were happy, although Ambassador Brawnanvil and King Melandrach were both incensed at the prospect of having to apologize to the dragons for their respective races’ activities in the past. They both agreed to do it, however, as protocol demanded it.

Lord Neverember also voiced his disapproval that the heroes had agreed to give the dragons a share in the treasure hoard recovered from the Well of Dragons. He was further disappointed when the heroes failed to assign any dragons to protect Neverwinter.

(As an aside, the heroes were surprised to see yet another new face at the council – this time a tiefling woman sitting beside Lord Neverember, ostensibly as an aid of some kind; she said nothing during the council session, but it was clear she was listening intently. Several of the other councilors, particularly Sir Isteval and Ontharr Frume, could barely disguise their disapproval of the tiefling’s presence.)

By the end of the session, the heroes had agreed to assign dragons to protect Baldur’s Gate, the Misty Forest, and Waterdeep, as well as to assist the Harpers and Emerald Enclave.

Next up: The cult strikes back!