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!