The Council Quiet

Who’s Your Friend?
As the heroes gathered for their standard breakfast of oatmeal, Jamna wandered up and grabbed Erevan’s bowl. She poked around in it with her knife, all the while glancing over at some of the cultists (who were clearly trying not to look in the group’s direction). She pulled out a little round thing that she said was a bone spur that would uncurl when swallowed. Potentially fatal. Probably in all their bowls. She told them she’d talk to them again that evening, and off she went again.

Mara, Keo and Flint frantically dug through their oatmeal, finding a number of lumps that could’ve been just about anything. Keo obtained a sheep’s stomach from somewhere and placed the bone spur inside. Sure enough, it uncurled and pokes its spines through the lining of the stomach. Yikes!

That evening, Jamna told the heroes that she was on the same mission they were. She wanted them to help her break into the cultists’ wagons. The heroes replied that they’d already done that and gave her a quick rundown of what they’d found. Jamna was most grateful but offered little in return and evaded questions about her employer. Afterward, the heroes wondered if they’d done the right thing sharing all that info with her.

Murder Most Foul
A piercing scream awakened the group the next morning. Someone had been murdered! It turned out to be the traveler Pavel Borsk had hired as an extra guard after the late Losvius Longnose had gone snooping through his stuff. Both Pavel and his bodyguard, Umara, blamed Keo, despite the fact that the murder weapon had clearly been a sword of some kind, which was not something the goliath owned. As tensions mounted, Azbara Jos surprised everyone by coming forward and attempting to calm the situation. (“Let’s not bicker and argue about who killed who!”)

When someone suggested that Pavel look to see if anything of his had been stolen, he spluttered a bit and then grew quiet. Edhelri and the other senior merchants all agreed that, without any witnesses, nothing could be done. The murderer’s fate was in the hands of the gods. The cultists seemed to think otherwise, though, as they proceeded to glare at Keo with undisguised hatred for the rest of the journey.

Waterdeep at Last!
On the fiftieth day of the journey, everyone heaved a sigh of relief as the City of Splendors came into view. The caravan disbanded in the city’s Southern Ward. Flint received his fifty gold for a job well done, while Mara only received forty from Aldor, who had docked her pay for her “poor” service. He also insisted that she sign a number of legal waivers. The merchants then unloaded their cargo and headed off to the Trades Ward.

The Harper Carlon approached the group and offered to use his many contacts in the city to keep track of the cultists and their wagons on their behalf. He told them to just take it easy and do a bit of sightseeing before meeting him at the famous Yawning Portal Inn later on.

The Council Quiet
When the heroes entered the Yawning Portal, they found Carlon waiting for them, along with Leosin and Ontharr! What a surprise! After a hearty greeting (and a quick explanation as to Erevan’s change in circumstances), Leosin informed the group that there were some others waiting to meet them in a back room. As the party headed across the inn’s common room, Ontharr nudged Mara in the ribs and pointed at some rookie adventurers getting ready to descend into Undermountain via the Entry Well. The two warriors shared a smirk and thought back to the days when they were just as inexperienced.

As the heroes entered the back room, they all felt the tingle of magic. The room was warded! Inside was a table laden with a fantastic spread. Present in the room were three noblewomen – two humans and a moon elf – as well as a male half-elf. Dressed in furs and leathers, the man looked out of place (and more than a little uncomfortable) next to the women in their expensive gowns.

Leosin introduced the elf as his superior, High Harper Remallia Haventree. She greeted the heroes warmly and then introduced her friend, Elia, a Turami woman who knew a lot about dragons. Leosin then introduced the third woman, Lady Laeral Silverhand. Although Keo had never heard of her, the others all had. She was one of the legendary Seven Sisters, the Chosen (and some say daughters) of Mystra, the goddess of magic! Although she was once a Harper herself, Laeral was present at the gathering on behalf of the Lords’ Alliance. Last but not least was the half-elf Delaan Winterhound, representative of Keo’s faction, the Emerald Enclave.

As Ontharr implored everyone not to let the food go to waste, Jamna made her presence known. Everyone had forgotten about her! She announced that she was with the Zhentarim and would like to be included in the gathering. She had knowledge she could share to make it worth their while. Remallia suggested they put it to a vote and asked Jamna to step outside briefly. Ontharr objected on principle, as he did not like the idea of consorting with such unscrupulous mercenaries, but he was the only one. Everyone else, including the heroes, voted to let Jamna join them.

To begin, Carlon gave his report. As the others tucked into their dinners, Carlon related that his informants had discovered that the cultists had all taken different routes to Virgin’s Square, their faction’s long-established meeting place in the city. (“You’d think they’d know better by now …”)

In the square, Barakis had met with a hooded figure, who must have been there to deliver the next set of orders, for shortly afterwards the cultists had all dispersed again. They were tracked through the city until they reconvened at a stableyard in Field Ward. The yard was owned by the High Road Charter Company, a business set up by the Open Lord of Waterdeep, Dagult Neverember, to rebuild the road to Neverwinter. After the cultists had deposited their cargo in the yard, they’d retired to a nearby inn. Carlon was able to learn that they had all signed on with the company’s next convoy, due to depart for the Carnath Roadhouse near the Mere of Dead Men a few days later.

Carlon surmised that the cult must have had a man on the inside (either an infiltrator or someone they’d bribed). Laeral quipped that she’d never allow the cult to infiltrate any of her pet projects. When the heroes inquired if she was implying that Lord Neverember himself might be in on the cult’s scheme, Laeral shook her head. Neverember was honest enough, she maintained. It was just that he was too preoccupied with rebuilding Neverwinter and ruling over Waterdeep to pay much attention to the little things.

Next up was Jamna the gnome. She had a number of interesting tidbits to share with the council. Firstly, she informed the group that the Cult of the Dragon had formed an alliance with a number of Thayan exiles, including the Red Wizard from the caravan, Azbara Jos. Jamna professed not to know the extent of their relationship, however, but made it clear that her superiors were keen to find out. The heroes backed Jamna up on that one, having seen Azbara Jos hitch a ride with the cultists on the caravan (after they’d turned everyone else away) for themselves, as well as having discovered links between the cult and the Red Wizards while in Baldur’s Gate.

But wait! There was more! Not only had one of these exiled Red Wizards actually joined the cult, but he’d also risen to the rank of wyrmspeaker! His name, Jamna said, was Galvan the Blue. This was news to all those assembled at the meeting.

Jamna then dropped a bombshell: she had it on good authority that the elves of the Misty Forest were paying the cult large amounts of protection money to stay out of their woods. At this, Delaan jumped to his feet, strenuously objecting on the grounds that he had a good relationship with the elves and had heard of no such arrangement. Furthermore, the elves would never even consider such a thing! Erevan agreed, saying that he’d seen no signs of anything like that during his (admittedly brief) time with the elves after his reincarnation.

The gnome shrugged. That’s just what she’d been told. Her next bit of info was that some other Zhentish agents had recently spied some cloud giants near the Well of Dragons, an extinct volcano that had long served as a dragon graveyard. When approached, the giants claimed they were searching for relics from their age-old conflict with the dragons. Jamna was offering this information on the off-chance that the giants could be convinced to help combat the Cult of the Dragon.

Last but not least, Jamna said she’d heard that the cult was also attempting to forge an alliance with the Arcane Brotherhood. The faction leaders look concerned at this, and Remallia indicated that she’d get some Harpers on it right away. While the Brotherhood may have reinvented itself as a mercantile organization in more recent times, there were still plenty of unscrupulously dangerous mages in its ranks.

Over the course of the meal, Flint noticed that Elia didn’t appear to like him. Despite the fact that they both shared an interest in dragon lore, she seemed completely uninterested in talking to him, with an attitude that was cool to the point of being rude. She was perfectly cordial to the others, so he concluded that it must have been something more personal. Perhaps she just didn’t like dwarves for some reason. Flint decided not to mention it to anyone else.

As the meal concluded, the faction leaders reiterated and expanded on the mission that Leosin and Ontharr had given the heroes back in Elturel. They wanted the group to continue tracking the cultists and their treasure wagons. However, once they’d learned where the treasure was ultimately heading, the heroes were to attempt to stop it from getting there. Laeral indicated that the Lords’ Alliance would like the treasure to be recovered, if possible, as much of it had been taken from people in their care. Remallia stated that she would particularly like it if the heroes could capture any Red Wizards they found working with the cult so they could be questioned. Finally, the faction leaders all wanted the heroes to attempt to capture Rezmir, the black wyrmspeaker who had so far remained one step ahead of them. Alive was preferable but dead worked too, as death was no real obstacle to communication.

As the council adjourned, Remallia took Flint and Erevan aside to formally welcome them into the Harpers. She thanked them for all they had done so far and raised them to the rank of Harpshadow. Lady Laeral did the same for Mara, raising her to the rank of Redknife within the Lords’ Alliance. Delaan also took Keo aside, but he just wanted to talk to the goliath about Imsa. The half-elf understood that Imsa wished to become a druid. However, he was concerned that she would not survive the dangers of Keo’s journey. He suggested that Imsa go to Goldenfields, a walled commune not far from Waterdeep that doubled as a base for the Emerald Enclave. There she could learn the ways of the Enclave and the druids in relative safety. When she was ready for the rigors of the adventuring life, she could rejoin Keo and train under him once again. Keo reluctantly agreed.

Safehouse
Before the council members dispersed, Remallia offered the heroes the use of a Harper safehouse. They asked for Jamna to be allowed to come with them, as they wanted to keep her close by. Carlon escorted them all across the city to the well-heeled North Ward, where they entered a seemingly-abandoned manor only to find it fully furnished. All of them were able to have hot baths and a good night’s sleep for the first time in nearly two months!

In the morning, the group chose to lie low for the day. The cultists wouldn’t be leaving until the next morning, but they would undoubtedly be on the lookout for their pursuers. ‘Twas better to just stay put in the relative comfort of the safehouse than risk being assassinated while out shopping or sightseeing.

Towards the evening, Leosin and Carlon stopped by to check on the party. Carlon offered to arrange to get them hired as guards for the convoy, but the heroes politely declined. They were tired of serving as caravan guards, and they could see how badly it could end if they came into close contact with the cultists again. No, they would shadow the convoy instead this time. Leosin then handed over a stash of magic items that the heroes’ factions had requisitioned for them, including a number of potions, a wand that could help them find secret doors and traps, and a robe covered in magical patches that could turn into a variety of useful items.

On the Road Again
The following morning, the heroes left Waterdeep, making sure to keep the dust from the convoy’s passage up the High Road in sight. It took another ten days to reach the roadhouse. Mara was somewhat upset at having to rough it out in the wilds again so soon. Along the way, the heroes were set upon by a lone troll that was attracted by the smell of their campfire. It rushed into the camp and proceeded to rip Erevan to shreds. When Flint hit it with a bolt of fire, it leapt across the fire to do the same to him. Keo turned into a bear and started shredding at the troll with tooth and claw, while Mara stayed where she was and repeatedly threw her magic axe at it. When the troll dropped to the ground for the second time, she finally remembered that fire was needed to keep it down permanently. While Mara busied herself with burning the troll to death, Keo healed up his fallen comrades. A short while later, Jamna wandered back into the camp, conveniently too late to be of any help in the fight.

Carnath Roadhouse
On the tenth day, the heroes stopped on a hill as the convoy made its way inside the roadhouse. After some discussion, the group agreed that Erevan would disguise himself as a cultist and go scout out the lay of the land. Using his magic to make himself look like an ordinary human, he strapped on the cult scabbard he’d obtained from the dragon hatchery south of Greenest and strode into the roadhouse. None of the cultists from the caravan recognized him, of course, but he quickly established that they all seemed to be there. Their cargo, however, was nowhere to be seen. He sought out the roadhouse commander, a surprisingly erudite half-orc named Bog Luck. The half-elf got the half-orc alone and magically charmed him into being his friend. The two then headed up to the kitchen to have a chat over some drinks. Erevan learned that Rezmir was in charge and that some lizardfolk came in the night to take the cult’s treasure away via a secret tunnel under the roadhouse strong room. Erevan was also able to ascertain that this wasn’t the first shipment of treasure the cult had brought to the roadhouse. The half-orc professed not to know where any of the treasure was taken, though he did remind Erevan that a big black dragon lived in the swamp.

Erevan slipped away again before his charm spell wore off and Bog Luck realized what was happened. Finding his real friends, the half-elf made his report, and the group decided (despite Flint’s objections) to bypass the roadhouse and head straight into the swamp in search of the secret tunnel’s exit so they could follow the lizardfolk carrying the treasure. Jamna volunteered to stay behind and keep an eye on the roadhouse, but the others insisted that she come with them.

With a growing sense of dread, the heroes ventured into the swamp, certain that the treasure was being taken straight to the dragon’s lair …

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The Long and Winding Road

The Concert
That evening, Flint organized a concert. It was all part of a clever plan he had concocted to enable Erevan to snoop through everybody’s wagons while their owners were distracted. Before the concert started, Flint snuck into the woods where Erevan was waiting and cast invisibility on him.

During the concert, the elves, Edhelri and Noohar, sang haunting melodies and Werond, Edhelri’s teamster, told heartbreaking stories of lost love. Then Flint broke out the dwarven poetry. The long-winded epic soon had everyone on the verge of falling asleep, but then Lasfelro the Silent came to the rescue and entertained everyone with his fine tenor voice and hilarious jokes.

Erevan used this as his cue to sneak up to the back of Lasfelro’s wagon. He was hoping that the gargoyle guard didn’t have any special senses. Despite being only half an elf now, he was nevertheless still graceful enough to get up into the back of the wagon without alerting the gargoyle. He was quite surprised to find that the wagon was full of dirt with a few roots protruding from it here and there. His immediate thought was vampires, so he pocketed one of the roots (without the gargoyle seeming to notice). After finding Keo in the crowd, Erevan handed him the root, but as far as the druid could tell, it was just from an ordinary shrub. Despite this, Erevan was still suspicious that there might be a coffin buried under the dirt.

As the concert continued, Erevan went to have a look at Morn Amblecrown’s wagon. The snooty nobleman from Iriaebor was supposedly carrying dried fruits from around the Sea of Fallen Stars. Although his friendly bodyguard, Larion, and sleazy teamster, Salazar, were off at the concert, Morn had stayed behind to guard his wagon. Erevan found him sitting morosely on the driver’s seat, so the elf circled around to the rear, where he spotted a bunch of crates. Very carefully, he pried one open only to find that it was filled with bags of money, with nary a fig or date to be found!

This was all the evidence he needed to conclude that Morn’s wagon was the third – and hopefully final – cult wagon. It would appear that the cult had split up their stolen hoard, with Morn carrying the coins, Pavel carrying the objets d’art, and the Appledowns carrying the jewels and gems.

As the concert wound down, Erevan took a quick look at a few other wagons but found nothing suspicious in any of them. He related his findings to Keo and then slipped back into the woods before Flint’s invisibility spell expired. He met back up with the wood elves of the Misty Forest, who guided him on their secret paths so that he could arrive at the Way Inn before the caravan and pretend to be a new traveler wishing to join.

Spider Woods
Several days of traveling later, the caravan was passing through a small forest when it was set upon by ettercaps and their giant spider pets. Two ettercaps went for the horse leading Lai Angesstun’s wagon. Sulesdeg the Pole came running to help only to get a bit webbed up in the process. Mara stayed on Aldor’s wagon, throwing her magic axe at every available target, while Flint got into a desperate struggle with a spider that crawled up the side of the wagon. The dwarf quickly gave up trying to cast any spells at it and whipped out his trusty warhammer instead, splattering spider guts everywhere.

After Keo turned into a bear and mauled the ettercaps, the fight was finished. No horses were taken, but two guards were killed elsewhere in the fighting. That night, the adventurers were lauded as heroes for saving the caravan yet again.

Animal Abuse Redux
Keo finally caught Grigor in the act of beating his horse. Since he didn’t want to start a fight with the vicious nobleman and his two powerful-looking bodyguards, he instead took the news to caravan master Edhelri. Using the fact that she doted on her own animals as leverage, Keo was able to convince the elf to expel the nobleman from the caravan. Although Grigor protested, no one else sided with him, and he was forced to make camp elsewhere. Although Keo wished he could have done more for the horses, he felt that his hands were tied and hoped that his fellow Enclave members would understand, should they ever hear about the incident and his handling of it.

The Way Inn

As the caravan settled down for another rest day in the walled village named after the famous Way Inn, Erevan (now posing as “Elessar Inglorion”) approached Edhelri, asking to join as a traveler. Although the elven caravan master noticed something familiar about him, she wasn’t able to identify him.

All through the day, the heroes keep an eye on the cultists. Keo and Barakis, in particular, eyed each other up but kept their distance. It was doubtful that the cultists had given up trying to assassinate the goliath druid, and yet they seemed to be in no hurry to try again. And for whatever reason, they didn’t appear to have identified Mara and Flint, despite the fact that neither of them had ever bothered to change their appearance.

Payback
The day after leaving the Way Inn, on the way to Bowshot, the caravan stopped suddenly. Shouts could be heard from the head of the caravan, and as the heroes move forward to investigate, they were shocked to find a human head in the middle of the road! Keo inched closer and discovered that the head belonged to a human who’d been buried alive in the road. Not only that, but the word “oathbreaker” had been written across the man’s forehead as well. The man appeared unconscious, and it was obvious that other wagons had passed him by without stopping. Many of the merchants insisted that the man got what he deserved and should thus be left there, but some of the others weren’t so sure. Edhelri called for a rest stop while the heroes spent a few hours digging the man out and then filling up the hole again.

The man was clearly in a bad way, so Keo fed him a few goodberries to bring him round. Flint and Erevan both noticed the Harper symbol tattooed on the man’s shoulder and quickly gave him a cloak to cover up with, as he’d been buried with nothing but a loincloth. The man introduced himself as Carlon Amoffel, and he explained that he’d broken an oath to marry a woman whose family had turned out to be bandits. They’d buried him in the road for refusing to join them.

Erevan wasn’t convinced, so he and Flint got Carlon alone later on and revealed their allegiance to the Harpers, which prompted the man to tell them the truth: he had been tracking some dragon cultists transporting stolen goods. They’d spotted him reporting to another Harper agent at the Way Inn. The cultists had then convinced the other members of their caravan that he’d committed some sort of crime, for which he’d been buried alive, his fate in the hands of the gods. Carlon added that he was a native of Waterdeep and had many contacts there, so he’d be happy to help his fellow Harpers in any way he could once they reached that great city.

Daggerford
After passing through Bowshot, Liam’s Hold, and Gillian’s Hill, the caravan finally arrived at Daggerford in time for another rest day. The party were surprised to see a cloaked and hooded man approach Morn Amblecrown and successfully purchase a seat on his wagon. Previously, the nobleman had turned away all offers from travelers looking to hitch a ride on his wagon (as had his fellow cultists, Pavel and the Appledowns). Even more surprisingly, the group noticed that the man was being shadowed by a dodgy-looking female gnome. She seemed quite keen on the man’s interactions with the cultists, occasionally sidling up close to eavesdrop on their conversations.

Over the course of the next few days, the heroes became aware that the gnome was also keeping an eye on them. Erevan decided to confront her. She introduced herself as Jamna Gleamsilver. When he asked her if she was a member of the Harpers, she scoffed at him. Without revealing his own allegiance to the Harpers, he managed to glean that Jamna was working for someone who was just as interested in the Cult of the Dragon’s activities as the Harpers were, and while she refused to say anything specific, he was convinced that she knew more than she was letting on.

High Holy Day
The autumnal equinox had arrived, and with it the performance of various religious rites. As the caravan traveled up the coast towards Waterdeep, it cames across a mass of people blocking the road as they flagellated themselves with barbed scourges. The heroes soon ascertained that these were followers of Loviatar, the Lady of Pain, and they were enacting the Rite of Pain and Purity. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like they had any intention of stopping any time soon, so the caravan couldn’t make any headway.

As threats of violence weren’t likely to have the desired effect, Edhelri summoned the ever-persuasive Mara. The warrior woman was surprised to find that her employer, Aldor, was actually keen for her to go help for once, as he was impatient to get moving again. Mara singled out a priest among the throng and tried to persuade him to lead his flock off the road, but much to her surprise, her words seemed to fall on deaf ears. The priest was just not interested in listening to reason! Just then, Keo spied a large briar patch in a nearby field. This changed everything. Soon the Loviatans were happily rolling around in the thorns and the caravan was on its way again!

Danger Ahead!

Sabotage
The next morning, as the caravan was leaving the inn, Samardag the Hoper’s wagon fell apart. His cargo crashed to the ground, smashing to pieces. Ever the optimist, Samardag just shrugged and decided to stay behind at the inn and wait for another opportunity to come along. Keo took a look at the wagon anyway and determined that it had been sabotaged, though he chose to keep that info to himself. The goliath decided to continue on with the caravan as an independent traveler, while his fellow guard, Leda Widris, was hired on by Beyd Sechepol.

Trollclaw Ford
A few uneventful days later, the caravan arrived at Trollclaw Ford and settled down for another day of rest. The heroes spent part of the day exploring the myriad ruins lying around the ford but no trolls were forthcoming. When they returned, they discovered a gnome had showed up in the caravan’s midst. About all anyone could get out of him was his name: Radecere Perethun. That and the fact that he really enjoyed playing games of chance.

That night, Barakis invited Keo to share a drink with him and exchange pleasantries. Afterwards, as Keo was settling down to bed, he was suddenly wracked with pain. It was only thanks to his stone-like constitution that he survived. The goliath set off to find Flint, who deduced that someone had put wyvern poison in his drink. Keo wondered if it had been Barakis or someone else.

Contraband
As the caravan wound its way out of the Trollclaws, the Appledowns had a small mishap as their wagon tipped into a rut and broke a wheel. As a result, some of their possessions spilled out onto the ground. While Tilda frantically tried to gather everything up, her husband Devlin insisted he could fix the wagon himself. Keo wouldn’t take no for an answer, though, so the young man eventually agreed to let the goliath hold the wagon up while he put on a new wheel.

After the caravan had stopped for the night, Losvius reported to Erevan that he had spotted some expensive-looking jewels among the things Tilda hurriedly put back in the wagon. Too expensive for such poor-looking commoners. The next morning, Losvius was found dead in his bed. Examining the halfling’s body, Flint noticed a tiny needle prick in the back of his neck, along with the telltale signs of wyvern poison. He chose to keep the evidence of Losvius’ murder to himself, though, so a manhunt wouldn’t reveal the cultists prematurely.

Bane of the Mountains
Another few days passed uneventfully. As the caravan settled in for another rest day in the shadow of the Troll Hills, Erevan and Keo spotted some perytons circling overhead. As the monstrosities began to dive toward the camp, the two gave a yell and made ready to defend the others, who were caught off-guard. One peryton went for Erevan, desiring his elf-flesh above all else, while another attacked Tilda Appledown. A third went for Imsa the Green. The remaining perytons struck elsewhere in the camp.

Seeing Imsa being gored by the peryton, Keo rushed in and used his magic to keep her alive. He then dragged her under the relative safety of a wagon and turned to face the hungry monster. Erevan, meanwhile, had also taken shelter beneath a wagon, firing his arrows at the peryton as Mara came running up and repeatedly threw her axe at the stubborn creature until it finally died.

As Flint fired magic missiles at the perytons, he glanced over at the Appledowns in time to see them draw a pair of familiar back-curved scimitars. The dragon cult weapon was of little use for Tilda, however, as the peryton’s antlers and talons ripped into her. As the monster made to fly off with her comatose body, Devlin ran to retrieve a bow from his wagon. Erevan the sharpshooter cames to the rescue, however, felling the beast from a great distance. Devlin hurried off to fetch his wife’s body, and as he returned to camp, Keo approached and offered to heal her. Devlin accepted but did not thank the druid.

Imsa the Green, however, did thank Keo for saving her life again. In fact, she proclaimed a desire to learn the ways of the druids and asked Keo if he would teach her. Flattered, the goliath agreed.

Dragonspear Castle
Another few days saw the caravan reach the end of the Coast Way, where it met the Trade Way in the shadow of Dragonspear Castle (or what was left of it). Here a smaller caravan traveling up from Scornubel merged with the caravan from Baldur’s Gate. Much to Erevan’s delight, the newcomers included two elf brothers, Noohar and Selvek. While Noohar was lively and talkative, his brother was mute. They were carrying exquisitely carved woodworks from the elves of Cormyr.

That night, the PCs heard all sorts of stories about the dreadful things that had happened up in the castle ruins over the centuries.

Animal Abuse
A few days later, Keo had become fed up watching one of the newcomers, a haughty noble named Grigor Chernin, abuse his animals. During a rest stop, he approached the nobleman and his bodyguards, a stern knight named Alethra and a sulky mage name Olem, to suggest that they treat their horses more kindly if they wished for them to survive the whole journey. Chernin brushed Keo’s concerns away, indicating that he could always get another horse if that one died. Not wanting to start a fight, Keo walked away, vowing to tend to the nobleman’s horse during the night, when no one was looking. Sure enough, he made sure to feed Chernin’s horses a goodberry or two every night to keep them going with the nobleman noticing.

The Golden Stag
During the caravan’s next scheduled rest stop, on the outskirts of the Misty Forest, a herd of deer wandered near to the caravan. A cry went up as someone spotted a magnificent stag with a shining coat seemingly made of gold and antlers covered in what looked like platinum. Numerous members of the caravan grabbed spears and bows and made to hunt the beast, ignoring the elves’ fervent pleas not to. Both Keo and Erevan decided to track the beast in hopes of stopping the others from killing it.

As the two slipped into the forest, they gradually heard the shouts of their comrades grow fainter, while every once in a while, they caught a glimpse of the stag up ahead. It was as though it was leading them somewhere, while the others were just getting themselves lost in the woods. Erevan hoped that no one ran afoul of the xenophobic wood elves who called the Misty Forest home.

After only a short distance (1,500 yards or so), they stumbled into a clearing in which lay the ruins of a once grand castle. In the middle, where a spring bubbled out of the ground and ran down among the rocks, stood the stag. It greeted them in a musical language that Keo recognized as Sylvan, although he couldn’t understand it. The stag then switched to Elvish, and Erevan translated for Keo. The stag told them that they were on the right path, and that they should follow the river of gold to the castle in the sky. It then implored them to drink from the spring. As a reward, they each received a charm of heroism. As the stag faded away, it warned them that not all of them would survive the journey …

And sure enough, as Keo and Erevan made their way back to camp, they found themselves ambushed by Barakis and a number of the other travelers from the caravan. All of them were wielding the dragon cult’s standard issue scimitars. Barakis further surprised them by breathing a blast of fire on Erevan. The cultists made short work of the two heroes, leaving them to bleed to death in the forest. Erevan soon succumbed to his injuries, but the goliath was still breathing by the time Flint and Mara found them. (Having seen everyone else who went hunting return but not their friends, the other two heroes convinced their employers to let them go look. Despite Aldor the lawyer’s sour attitude, Mara somehow knows just how to manipulate him into getting what she wants!)

A Second Chance
Flint revived Keo with a healing potion, and the goliath explained what had happened. The group decided to take Erevan’s body back to the ruins to see if they could find the stag again. When the stag did not return, Flint and the others decided to try shouting help, in case any elves were nearby. After some time passed, an elf emerged from the trees, and the heroes got the sense that there were many others watching them from the shadows. A tense discussion ensued, but the heroes were able to convince the elf to lead them to some druids who could help, though on condition that they all went blindfolded into the forest.

As the heroes met with the druids, they related their sorrowful tale. When Keo mentioned meeting the golden stag, the elves were suitably impressed, and when he added that he was a member of the Emerald Enclave, the druids’ attitude improved enough that they agreed to help the party. They offered to reincarnate Erevan for half the normal cost in material components. Flint scrounged through his bag of holding and begrudgingly handed over 500 gp in coins and gems.

As the druids performed their ritual, a new body took form. They called on Erevan’s spirit, and he returned to inhabit this new body. Much to his bemusement, and that of his friends’, he was now only half an elf! But this gave him an idea: the cultists would have no idea who he was. They could go on thinking that he had died in the forest, and he could spy on them as a newcomer to the caravan. It was perfect!

So the other three returned to the camp and spread the word that Erevan was dead. Flint privately told Edhelri the truth, that there were some bad people in the caravan that he and the others were tracking. They had killed Erevan. But Edhelri wasn’t to do or say anything, because Flint and his companions needed the bad people to reach their destination safely. Flint then went back to Angesstun’s wagon, convinced that virtually everyone in the caravan could be a cultist and that it was only a matter of time before they tried to kill him too!

To Waterdeep or Bust!

A Day of Rest
On the seventh day out from Baldur’s Gate, the caravan stopped for its first rest day. The animals were allowed to relax, and the wagons were patched up. Erevan stepped into his roll as caravan guard sergeant by setting up a roster and making sure all the guards were on the same page.

Keo took them time to find the tiefling Barakis and struck up a conversation with him. The tiefling revealed that he had gone to Little Calimshan after fleeing from the turmoil in his homeland, but he didn’t like it there (too oppressed and dangerous), so now he was heading further north in search of somewhere better. Keo empathized with the tiefling, and the two agreed to get some drinks together later. Mara and Flint merely sat back and observed while off duty.

Erevan also took Losvius Longnose, an overly-curious halfling teamster, aside and warned him that he’d heard about the halfling’s nosey habits. Much to Losvius’ surprise, however, Erevan offered to pay him good money to report on anything noteworthy that he came across while poking around. He warned the halfling to be discreet, though, as there was some “hot” merchandise in the caravan and its handlers wouldn’t take kindly to it being discovered. Losvius readily agreed, of course. Hopefully Erevan wouldn’t be getting him into trouble!

Fungus Humongous
A few days later, a storm rolled in. Lots of rain. Thunder and lightning. The storm went on for two whole days, leaving everyone cold and miserable. On the morning of the third day, everyone woke up to find the ground covered in tiny but rapidly growing mushrooms that let out a puff of black spores and a sound like a baby’s cry when stepped on. The merchants were all terrified, convinced that the mushrooms would doom them all, especially since the animals were all spooked too. Keo, however, knew a thing or two about plants and determined that these were baby shriekers. He wasn’t sure why they were growing on the surface but pointed out that they were pretty harmless at this stage. Their spores were only mildly toxic. He volunteered to help clear a path, as did his companions and several of the other guards. Only the guards were affected by the toxin and ended up spending the rest of the day wracked with grief.

No Room at the Inn
That evening, the caravan approached the last inn south of Trollclaw Ford. The warm light spilling from its windows was inviting, but when the heroes were sent inside to secure some rooms, they discovered that the entire inn had been booked out by a snotty-looking noblewoman and her entourage of sniggering dilettantes. The woman insisted that she was waiting for some party guests to arrive but wouldn’t discuss the details. The innkeeper seemed completely unwilling to make any exceptions and wouldn’t even allow the caravan to stay in the stables (which the noblewoman had also booked out so her horses wouldn’t have to share the building with any other animals), although he seemed visibly embarrassed by it.

While the party discussed whether or not to simply overwhelm the innkeeper and the nobles with the sheer number of people in the caravan, Tyjit Skesh lost her temper and drew her sword. The noblewoman’s minions quickly leapt to their feet, drawing their weapons as well. The noblewoman herself underwent a terrifying transformation, sprouting large leather wings from her back and small horns on her head, as her skin darkened to an unholy shade of red. Keo recognized her as a half-fiend cambion. The fight was on!

As the cambion’s minions came charging across the room, Keo conjured up two brown bears in an attempt to box the half-fiend in the corner. Unfortunately, she was able to evade them by flying up near the ceiling. She then used her fiendish wiles to charm Mara into attacking Keo, who had changed into bear form himself. Between Mara’s greataxe and the minions’ swords, Keo found himself unable to stay in wildshaped for long. He also lost concentration on his conjuration spell, but not before the two bears were able to rough up two of the cambion’s minions.

The cambion shot rays of fire at the heroes and taunted them while she hovered in the air out of reach. Along with her minions’ attacks, the party were quickly overwhelmed. Flint dropped to the ground, though Tyjit managed to stabilize him. Keo soon followed, as did Erevan. Tyjit ran to the front door and called for aid. Orvustia, Leda, and Sulesdeg came running to help. Orvustia headed to assist Erevan, helping him back on his feet, while Leda and Sulesdeg held off the cambion’s minions. Erevan was soon on the floor again, though, as the cambion ordered Mara to chase him around and take him down. Orvustia went to help Keo, but the cambion scorched her with fire and she crumpled onto the ground.

The cambion then ordered Mara to go help herself to a drink, taking her out of the fight for a few moments. Flying over to a table near the bar, she invited Mara to join her while they watched her minions hack away at Sulesdeg and Leda. Sulesdeg fell, but Leda hung in there and ended up being the last one standing. She rushed over to get a healing potion off Erevan’s belt. The cambion, who had by this time introduced herself as Nemeia, ordered Mara to go stop Leda. Unfortunately, Leda gave Mara a few good whacks, enabling the noble fighter to shake off the charm effect. Disappointed, Nemeia flew over to the bar and tried it on Leda, but the veteran guard proved to be too strong-willed. Leda poured the potion down Erevan’s throat, while Mara went to fetch more healing potions from Flint’s bag of holding. With Flint back in the action, the cambion got pounded by magic missiles and soon called it quits, telling the party that they’d ruined her fun. She then plane shifted away in a puff of black smoke.

The battle over, the heroes picked themselves up, revived Sulesdeg and Tyjit, and searched the bodies of the cambion’s goons. Sadly, though, young Orvustia had succumbed to her wounds and was no more.

When the innkeeper came back to his senses (the cambion had also charmed him), he readily agreed to let the entire caravan stay at the inn free of charge (the rooms having already been paid for, after all!). While most members of the caravan were grateful to the adventurers for securing the inn for them, some of the travellers behaved rather oddly. The Appledowns, for instance, chose to stay outside in their wagon, despite the weather, and while Pavel Borsk took a room in the inn, he ordered his bodyguard, Umara, to stay with his wagon. Some of the other travelers who’d been walking also chose to stay in the stables rather than come into the inn. But others, like Imsa and Barakis, gladly partook of the warmth and dryness of the common room. Lai Angesstun droned on about how glad he was not to have to pay for a room, while Morn Amblecrown rudely ignored everyone else. Edhelri was pleased that heroes and their fellow guards were able to clear out the awful people, though she gives Erevan a bit of a chiding for allowing Orvustia to get herself killed.

In the morning, Orvustia’s body was buried under a cairn of rocks, and Edhelri instructed Erevan to write a letter to her family explaining how she’d died. The letter was left at the inn to be taken back to Baldur’s Gate by the next southbound caravan that came through. The caravan also confiscated the cambion’s fine horses.

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.