First Council of Waterdeep

A Series of Intriguing Events
After returning to Waterdeep, our heroes were given some more downtime. As winter gave way to spring, several things happened:

First, Lord Arthagast Ulbrinter was assassinated by the Cult of the Dragon. His widow, Remallia Haventree, swore she would not rest until the cult had been destroyed. With the backing of the lords of Waterdeep, who did not like to see one of their own so badly mistreated, Remi organized what would become known as the First Council of Waterdeep – a gathering of important leaders from across the Sword Coast, all of whom were beginning to feel the effects of the cult’s actions.

Second, a strange atmospheric effect began disturbing the normal hum of the city. It was a feeling similar to the drop in air pressure before the approach of a storm, or like faint tremors in the ground from a distant earthquake. As the days passed, it began to have an adverse effect on everyone. Animals, in particular, seemed quite sensitive to it. No one seemed to know what it was or what was causing it, though.

First Council of Waterdeep
Some time later, the heroes were invited to attend the inaugural session of the Council of Waterdeep. As Leosin guided them through the vaulted marble halls of the Lords’ Palace, he explained that the various leaders were in need of someone “to show them the right path …”

“Heroes who will lead the forces of the Sword Coast with certainty into the coming darkness!” interjected Ontharr Frume, coming up behind the group and pounding them all heartily on the shoulders. “I firmly believe you all have a chance to be those heroes!”

“Bear in mind, friends, that each faction will weigh your every word and scrutinize your every decision,” continued Leosin. “What pleases one group might anger another. It will be incredibly difficult to make everyone happy.”

As the group headed for the “secret council chambers”, they passed through outer galleries packed with nobles in heated debate, watched over by guards wearing the livery from city-states across the Sword Coast.

Dagult Neverember, Open Lord of Waterdeep and Lord Protector of Neverwinter, presided over the council. He opened the session by pointing out that all present could speak freely, as the council chambers had been warded against scrying and other forms of eavesdropping.

The council was composed primarily of members of the Lords’ Alliance. In addition to Lord Neverember, there was Connerad Brawnanvil, a former king of Mithril Hall and the ambassador for the dwarves of the North; Melandrach, king of the elves of the Misty Forest and ambassador for the elves of the High Forest; Ulder Ravengard, Grand Duke of Baldur’s Gate; Taern “Thunderspells” Hornblade, an archmage representing the city of Silverymoon; and Sir Isteval, a retired paladin representing both the town of Daggerford and the kingdom of Cormyr.

Representing the other factions were Remallia Haventree (Harpers), Ontharr Frume (Order of the Gauntlet), and Delaan Winterhound (Emerald Enclave). No one from the Zhentarim was present.

Once everyone had been introduced, Leosin and Ontharr stepped forward to report on their role in gathering information about the cult. They touched on the heroes’ activities from Greenest through to Skyreach Castle. The heroes were then asked to clarify a few points:

The Dragon Eggs: Several leaders were disappointed to learn that the heroes had destroyed the black dragon eggs they’d found in the cave south of Greenest. Remi and Taern would have preferred keeping the eggs to hold for ransom, thus potentially keeping the parent dragons from joining in the fight. Lord Neverember would have liked to have been able to sell them to “responsible buyers” in order to be able to buy more mercenaries. Delaan quietly pointed out that he had already expressed to Keo the Enclave’s disapproval of the disruption of the natural order that destroying the eggs had caused.

Skyreach Castle: Though the majority of the councillors were happy enough that the heroes had allowed Blagothkus to keep his flying fortress, Connerad was extremely upset. He felt quite strongly that the heroes should have commandeered it for the alliance, rather than letting it remain in the hands of the giants. Several others countered this by pointing out that it  could work in their favor, should they decide to reach out to the giants for assistance.

Rezmir: Everyone was a little disappointed that the heroes hadn’t been able to capture Rezmir alive, but they understood that the circumstances had not allowed for it. Connerad wanted to know who had struck the killing blow. The heroes explained that it had been a team effort, with Flint using his storm magic, Keo his faerie fire, Mara her greataxe, and Roscoe his trusty daggers. The council members all seemed suitably impressed.

Varram the White Wyrmspeaker: The Lords’ Alliance, the Harpers, and the Order of the Gauntlet were all pleased that the heroes had managed to capture Varram alive. Furthermore, Connerad insisted that, once the allies were finished with him, he be sent to Mithril Hall to be tried in a court of dwarven law for crimes against his own kind. Delaan was the sole voice of dissent, indicating that the Enclave felt this behavior was excessive. Keeping such an important member of the cult alive only opened the door for a rescue attempt.

The Black Dragon Mask: Everyone was pleased that the heroes had managed to get their hands on a dragon mask. There was still so much that could be learned about their significance, but surely the fact that the cult was missing one would have a negative impact on their ultimate goal.

With that feedback given, Lord Neverember asked the heroes if they would be willing to continue in their fight against the cult. When the heroes all replied in the affirmative, the council bestowed on them emergency powers of investigation, including a writ with the factions’ seals on it that would give them access to people and places that might ordinarily be off-limits to the general public. Lord Neverember warned that the writ came with oversight from the council, however, as the heroes’ conduct would reflect back on the faction leaders. The heroes weren’t entirely sure they liked the sound of that – Roscoe the least so – but they all agreed nonetheless.

Lord Neverember then steered the meeting towards new business – namely, that of the bizarre effect that kept occurring at regular intervals. He then invited  one Lady Dala Silmerhelve, a scholarly noble, into the chamber to speak on the topic. She explained that the effect was being produced by an ancient draconic artifact known as the draakhorn. She didn’t know much more than that, but she suggested that if anyone did know anything, it would most likely be one of the Arcane Brotherhood, an order of the “best and brightest mages” in Faerûn based in Luskan.

Over Ontharr Frume’s protestations (“The brotherhood does not police their members! There are known necromancers in their ranks, for gods’ sake!”), the heroes agreed to go and meet with the Arcane Brotherhood on behalf of the council. Lord Neverember offered to set up a meeting for them with his friend, Zelenn the White, an elven wizard originally from Neverwinter.

To Luskan
After the meeting, the heroes were given some time to gather their thoughts and then Leosin led them to the Lightsinger Theater. In a prop room at the back, the Harper showed them a bricked-up doorway. After asking everyone except Flint to avert their eyes, pressed a few bricks. The bricked portion swung open like a door, revealing an old dusty stairwell. Leosin reached up and touched the arch’s keystone and at once the stairwell was replaced by a shimmering portal that cycled through images of a dingy sewer, a dark warehouse corner, and a wheelwright’s storeroom.

Leosin muttered a phrase in Elvish that no one understood and immediately the portal settled on the image of the storeroom. “There you are, folks! That will take you to Wiley’s Wheels in Luskan. The shop is run by a dwarf named Maxxil, who’s an ally of the Harpers. When you’re ready to return, he’ll open up the portal again from his side. Just be careful over there. Luskan may be on the up-and-up but it always was a rough-and-tumble place and always will be.”

The heroes had little trouble finding their way to the Hosttower of the Arcane, the ancient tree-like tower that the Arcane Brotherhood called home. Their writ from the Council of Waterdeep granted them access and before long they were face to face with not just Lord Neverember’s friend, Zelenn the White, but also the brotherhood’s archmage arcane, Cashaan the Red.

The mages explained that their resident expert on draconic artifacts, Maccath the Crimson, had departed on an expedition three years ago and hadn’t been seen since. She had determined that the only way to learn more about some things was to treat with dragons themselves. She also desired to recover some artifacts that one dragon in particular, an old white dragon named Arauthator, had stolen during an attack on the Hosttower over a century ago.

With that in mind, Maccath had set sail for the Sea of Moving Ice. She’d maintained communication with her fellows via sending spells. Her last spell had indicated that she’d neared a distinctive iceberg. After that, nothing, and although the wreck of her ship had been found and the bodies of some of its crew, she had simply disappeared. Cashaan felt that she was still alive, however. He surmised that Maccath would be too great a prize for a dragon like Arauthator.

Cashaan offered to help the heroes: if they agreed to find Maccath and bring her back to the brotherhood, along with as many of the items Arauthator had stolen as they could find, he would provide the heroes with a ship and several items that might help them. The items included warm clothing and two arrows of dragon slaying. He also agreed to sell the heroes some potions at cost.

Ultimately, though, the heroes turned down the offer of a ship. Flint was not keen on spending so much time on the open water, and Imsa had mentioned that she was aware of an Emerald Enclave member who trained griffons as mounts in Fireshear, a town just up the coast from Luskan. Having flown with his dragon friend, Flint was much more comfortable with that idea. The others didn’t seem to care either way, so off to Fireshear they went and spent a few days training with Dasharra Keldabar, a dwarf veteran of Waterdeep’s famed Griffon Cavalry. Dasharra offered to accompany the heroes on their flight into the Sea of Moving Ice as well.

The Sea of Moving Ice
It took the heroes a few days to fly up to the sea from Fireshear. They then spent another four days fruitlessly searching amongst the endless ice floes until finally spotting some Ice Hunters tracking seals. They landed and attempted to speak to the hunters. Flint cast comprehend languages so that he could understand what they were saying and then conjured up little images using prestidigitation. The hunters seemed fearful of his magic, so Roscoe drew pictures of dragons and horned women in the snow. The hunters maintained that there was no dragon nearby and implored the heroes to let them go. The heroes reluctantly agreed and the hunters retreated to their boats.

The following evening, while the heroes were snugly camped out inside Flint’s tiny hut, Roscoe spotted a polar bear stalking a wounded Ice Hunter. Rousing his companions, he hurried out to help. Skie screamed and shouted ferociously at the bear, successfully intimidating it into fleeing. Keo gave the hunter some goodberries. Having saved his life, the heroes had better luck communicating with this Ice Hunter. He fearfully explained that there was a dragon and that his people lived on the iceberg with the dragon. But he begged the heroes to not go there as it would put his people in danger.

The next day, the heroes spotted the distinctive shape of the iceberg known as Oyaviggaton! After circling over it and spotting the Ice Hunters’ village at the center, they found a low shelf covered in large animal bones to one side. Landing the griffons there, they found a number of chewed-on humanoid bones in amongst the larger ones, which looked to have come from large seals and whales.

To the side of the shelf was a large cleft in the ice cliff. Someone had carved steps into it, leading up to the plateau at the top. As the heroes discussed how to proceed, Dasharra indicated that she’d give them 24 hours. If they hadn’t reported back in that time, she’d take her griffons home.

The heroes decided to try some magical scouting first. Keo used commune with nature to establish that there were humanoids and dogs at the top of the plateau, as well as what could count as a “manmade” structure inside the iceberg itself. Flint then cast arcane eye and sent it up the staircase. At the top, he was surprised to find a bunch of corpses frozen in a wall of ice as some kind of morbid warning. Some were dressed like Luskar sailors, some like the Ice Hunters. There was even a dwarf. All appeared to have died violently.

Flint sent the arcane eye speeding across the uneven surface of the plateau towards the Ice Hunter village. As it was snowing lightly, most of the people stayed inside, but occasionally he saw someone go from one hut or igloo to another. He sent the eye roving around the outer walls of the iceberg as well but could find no obvious entrance to the caverns beneath the village. Then he remembered that white dragons could swim and thought maybe Arauthator would have a subterranean entrance, so he sent his arcane eye under the water. After some time, he found a tunnel leading up into the iceberg and, viola, there was the dragon, clinging to the ceiling of his cave just like Cloudchaser had done! His spell ran out before he could explore much of the dragon’s lair, but he was able to deduce that there was still about 60 feet between the ceiling of the lair and the surface of the iceberg, so there was most likely some more caves in between.

The Ice Hunters
At this point, the heroes decided it was time to go and talk to the Ice Hunters in the village. Dasharra bid them farewell and took her griffons to rest on a nearby iceberg, where she could watch Oyaviggaton from relative safety.

As the heroes neared the village, the dogs started barking and the whole tribe spilled out to get a look at the newcomers. The tribe’s chieftain, Barking Seal, spoke a little Illuskan, so Skie was able to translate. Barking Seal insisted that they leave, but the heroes were equally insistent that they were going to stay, so the chieftain proposed a deal: if one of them fought the village champion and won, they could stay; if they fought and lost, they’d have to leave. The heroes reluctantly agreed.

Skie stepped up to fight a massive Ice Hunter named Orcaheart. The rest of the tribe circled around to watch. It was a fairly evenly-matched fight, and despite the restriction on using magic, Keo was sure he’d seen the tribal shaman heal her warrior when he’d “stumbled” into her at one point. Then Skie channelled her rage and it was all over for poor Orcaheart.

As it turned out, the tribe’s idea of hospitality was to offer the heroes the use of their storage igloo and a meal consisting of spoiled fish. The heroes did the polite thing, though, and ate the fish. And the next thing they knew, they were all tied up in an ice cave lit by whale oil lamps, with a bunch of giant white toads poking through their gear!

“Shouldn’t have eaten the fish …” Roscoe grumbled, as the heroes realized they’d been poisoned. Roscoe slipped his bonds and then helped free his friends. The toads backed away but did nothing to stop them. Flint tried talking to them and discovered that they could speak a little Draconic. They explained that the heroes were in the dragon’s lair and that they would end up as his dinner. They also acknowledged that the “horned lady” was still alive and was in her part of the lair.

And that is where we finished for the evening. Stay tuned for the next instalment!

 

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Episodes 2-4

Note: I fell off the recap wagon for a while, and then we had a long break between sessions, so it’s been a while since we actually played through Episodes 2 and 3, hence why the following recaps are so brief.

EPISODE 2
The Cultist Camp

The PCs accepted Governor Nighthill’s request to track the raiders and find out what the story was. They met up with the stragglers, whereupon Flint turned Erevan invisible so the elf rogue could sneak up on the kobolds and, doing his best kobold impression, incite them towards violence against the cultists. This worked a treat and the PCs hardly needed to do any fighting themselves. They managed to talk to one of the cultists before he expired, learning of the rearguard waiting in the rocks. This enabled them to avoid the rearguard encounter entirely.

They scouted around the camp from the top of the ridge. In the end, they decided to just have Erevan sneak into the camp under cover of darkness to rescue Leosin. Believe it or not, the players came up with the idea of replacing Leosin with a straw dummy completely on their own! As a result, they were able to get Leosin far enough away from the camp before the alarm was raised that no harm came to anyone on the way back to Greenest.

EPISODE 3
The Dragon Hatchery

The PCs accepted Leosin’s request to return to the camp and find out more. Of course, they found the camp all but empty when they returned. They were able to wheedle a few details from the recalcitrant hunters before heading into the cave. Erevan used his cultist outfit to scout ahead, chatting with the guards in the cave entrance before heading back out again to inform the others of what he’d found. They opted for the frontal assault (of course). They fought their way through to Mondath’s chamber, but the priestess slipped down the escape hatch hidden beneath her rug. Instead of following her, they dragged some of her heavy furniture on top of the hole and then went and explored the rest of the cave complex.

The PCs bested the violet fungi and a patrol of kobolds and made their way through the bat cave without disturbing its inhabitants. They took a short rest on the ledge above the trash heap before pressing on. Erevan scouted ahead alone, discovering the meat locker. They all went north together to the drake training room, where I had added a kobold “wyrmpriest”. He proved to be a bit of a glass cannon – he blasted Erevan with an acid orb and then got knocked down into the pit, where the juvenile drakes hungrily tore him to shreds. The PCs later made mincemeat of the kobolds and urds in their barracks, but then fumbled their initial foray into the shrine room (despite me giving them a free short rest that I described as an “adrenaline rush”). Erevan managed to invisibly sneak past Cyanwrath to get into position behind Mondath before the others charged in, but they were soon defeated by the half-dragon and his berserkers, while Mondath’s spirit guardians did Erevan in. (That being said, Cyanwrath only had like 3 hp left at the end of the fight, so they’d almost gotten him!)

Rather than have it be a TPK, I decided that Cyanwrath wanted to interrogate them (and possibly try to recruit them), so he had Mondath cast spare the dying on them all. They woke up in the pit at the far end of the dragon hatchery, in which I had also added a few of the prisoners from the camp (who were being saved as food for the wyrmlings once they hatched) and a scaffolding for the kobolds to use.

Unfortunately for me, I kind of fumbled this scene and allowed the PCs to escape and recover their stuff before Cyanwrath had the chance to talk to them. I’d allowed them to gain the benefits of a long rest while huddled up in the pit, so Keo changed his spell selection, which made a huge difference during their rematch against Cyanwrath et al (IIRC he used hold person on either Cyanwrath or the berserker). I believe I also made it so one of the berserkers had been repositioned in the cave entrance since the PCs had wiped out all the other guards and the kobolds.

The PCs summarily dealt to Cyanwrath and the berserkers, but Mondath managed to escape, taking one of the hunter’s horses with her. They thought about trying to chase after her but ended up letting her go. They went back into the cave and destroyed the dragon eggs with ranged attacks – not wanting to risk going near the mysterious tentacled thing that kept telepathically asking them for food. They then went back to the trash heap and Keo went in to retrieve the chest they’d noticed before. He was ambushed by troglodytes, and he came very close to dying, except that I ruled that the last remaining troglodyte couldn’t fit his body through the narrow fissure and so left him behind, and then Erevan managed to get to him with a healing potion just in the nick of time!

EPISODE 4
On the Road

Back in Greenest, the PCs were warmly welcomed by Governor Nighthill, who informed them that Leosin had left already but there were some horses waiting for them should they wish to follow the half-elf. The governor pulled out a map of the region and pointed out the various routes they could take to get to Elturel. The PCs opted to ride to Berdusk and then take a boat down the Chionthar to Elturel. Flint wasn’t too sure he liked the sound of that but went along with it anyway. It’s about 125 miles from Greenest to Berdusk, so at a normal pace, the PCs were looking at 5 days on the road. [FYI: The 200 miles from Greenest to Elturel mentioned in the adventure is for the most direct route across the Greenfields. Going by the overland travel rules in the PHB, that journey should actually take eight days, not six.]

About a day or so out from Greenest along the Uldoon Trail, the PCs sought shelter from the heat in a copse of trees surrounding a small spring. Just as they were getting nice and relaxed, they heard some piercing cries from above. A group of three griffons had spotted/smelled their horses and were diving to attack! Luckily the PCs had had the foresight to tether their mounts to a tree or else the frightened animals might have bolted. As it was, the PCs had a hard fight on their hands. While they managed to fend off the lead griffon, the other two held their attack and managed to slay two horses. Only one managed to break the tether and make off with the corpse, while the other struggled long enough that the PCs were able to do it in.

When they were only a day away from Greenest, they encountered a patrol out of Berdusk (one of the city’s roving “gauntlets”, made up of soldiers, militiamen, convicts, and mercenaries). They filled in the patrol’s leader on what had happened in Greenest, and the patrol continued on its way, determined to do what it could to help the people of the Greenfields recover from the cultists’ attacks. [FYI: At the beginning of Episode 2, Leosin’s disciple, Nesim Waladra, mentions that one of his brothers had gone to Berdusk to seek help but that it would be many days before any help arrived. I decided that this patrol was that help.]

Not having any current info to go on for the next part of the journey, I referred to the 2e Forgotten Realms Adventures and Volo’s Guide to the Sword Coast for info on Berdusk and Scornubel. The PCs had a bit of fun in Berdusk. Erevan went to the temple of Deneir (aka. the old Harper base known as “Twilight Hall”) to buy some healing potions. He also bought a bottle of the famed Berduskan Dark wine, and the PCs all sampled some of the local delicacy known as goldenstars (which, based on the description of them in Volo’s, one of my players identified as samosas). [Incidentally, one of my players is German, and when I showed the group the black and white images of the city in the Volo’s book, she said it reminded her of some of the places back home!]

On the River
Despite Flint’s objections about going on the water, the group soon found a barge captain willing to take them downriver for free in exchange for them acting as guards, as the gnolls in the Reaching Wood had grown restlessly bold of late [a hint I took from the 4e FRCG’s entry on Elturgard]. Erevan put Flint to sleep to get him on board. Before the dwarf woke up, he had another of his apocalyptic dreams, this time featuring the city of Berdusk being reduced to rubble.

Due to the risk of gnoll attacks, the barge captain said he would sail through the night, using Erevan’s darkvision to help guide him rather than lanterns (which would make them more of a target). Sure enough, some gnolls attacked them on a stretch of the river that drew close to the edge of the Reaching Wood. The gnolls fired flaming arrows at the barge from the safety of the trees. One of the deckhands went down, but Keo was able to revive him. The big druid also used spike growth to great effect after Erevan and Flint, who were able to attack the gnolls back thanks to their darkvision (and Erevan’s new Sharpshooter feat), had whittled them down quite a bit. Poor Mara was left with little to do besides dodge the gnolls’ flaming arrows and put out the small fires they caused amongst the barge’s cargo.

Needless to say, the barge captain and his crew were most grateful when they reached Scornubel with all hands. I gave them a quick rundown of the city, including the relatively recent addition of the paladin citadel, which had been built when Elturgard annexed Scornubel after the Spellplague almost destroyed the city due to severe lack of trade. The PCs decided not to spend much time here, each seeking a place to bed down for the night according to their needs (Keo, for instance, opted to sleep in a paddock, while Mara chose the most expensive inn she could find). The next morning, Erevan had to put Flint to sleep again in order to get the stubborn dwarf back on the barge.

The trip to Elturel was uneventful, though I made sure to describe the city’s magical second sun growing bigger and brighter as they drew closer. I also mentioned that, as they went into the city, they noticed that many of the homes and buildings had heavy black-out curtains. Unfortunately, we had to stop there, but we’re planning on doing a longer session next time, so hopefully we’ll get through the meetings with Leosin and Ontharr and then be on our way to Baldur’s Gate, where I have a few fun little extras in mind for the PCs while they wait for the cultists to show up.