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!