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 …

Advertisements

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!

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.

Baldur’s Gate

The Wide
While perusing the myriad goods for sale in the Wide along with his friends, Erevan was accosted by a haughty-looking noble who accused the elf of treading on his fine silk cloak. Mara recognized him as Lord Devlin Redlock, a pugnacious fellow if ever there was one. He waved one of his gloves in Erevan’s face and demanded satisfaction. A duel!

Erevan figured he had this one stitched up, but Lord Redlock proved to be no slouch. He parried the elf’s first thrust and dodged the second before landing the first blow. Forced to concede defeat, Erevan agreed to accompany the gloating patriar to purchase him a new cloak.

Meanwhile, the others noticed that two thieves had taken advantage of the distraction to pick people’s pockets. Flint made a grab for one of the thieves, but he melted away into the crowd, while Keo and Mara pursued the other. Mara soon caught up to the pickpocket and grabbed him. Turning him over to the nearest Watchmen, Mara didn’t bat an eye as they cut off one of the thief’s fingers before escorting him away. Keo was rather bemused by this, but Mara assured him it was standard practice in the Gate.

The Hissing Stones
Later one of the urchins Erevan had employed to keep a watch on things for him delivered a note addressed to both him and Flint. It appeared to be from a fellow Harper named Jandar, who was asking them to meet him at the Hissing Stones bathhouse in Seatower. He claimed to have some information to give them. Much to their surprise, once the two Harper recruits had read the note, it burned away to ash in their hands!

Erevan and Flint made their way across town to the bathhouse, which was built in the old Chessentan style, complete with a central cloister, heated floors, and mosaic tiles – including a rather impressive one of a wizard fighting a dragon amongst the clouds. The two trainee Harpers found Jandar in one of the steam rooms. A dusky-skinned human from the east, Jandar greeted them warmly and informed them that he had some information on the Cult of the Dragon. He indicated that he was aware of their mission, having been contacted by Leosin, and he wanted to let them know that the Harpers already had several agents in the city, some of whom were in deep cover. They knew of several cult cells, and while the groups frequently didn’t see eye-to-eye, they seemed to be cooperating more than usual. Something big was going down. The cells had been receiving shipments from all over, including from the Moonshae Isles to the west and even from the Underdark beneath the city. What the shipments contained and what the cult planned to do with them wasn’t clear. The heroes, however, assumed that the shipments all contained stolen treasure. It would appear that the cultists were funnelling their ill-gotten gains through the city.

The Harper agent continued, relaying that the cult had influence at all levels of the city strata. Enough patriars and peers were being bribed or blackmailed – with a few possibly even being members of the cult themselves – that it was unlikely that the authorities could be persuaded to move against them. Not that the heroes wanted that to happen anyway, since their goal was to follow the treasure to its ultimate destination.

Jandar also informed the two that the cult had put a price on their heads. 200 gp each. No doubt the Guild knew about it and would be sending assassins after them. He reiterated that they should change their appearance as much as possible, although he acknowledged that there was only so much one could do to disguise an 8-foot tall goliath.

As the meeting concluded, Jandar let Flint and Erevan know that if he came across any further information pertaining to the cult, he’d pass it on to them. They thanked him and left to rejoin their companions.

Elfsong Tavern
Mara had initially gone to Greenest in search of her childhood friend, Talis. Having found no sign of her there, she decided she’d best report the bad news to Talis’ father, Coran. She arranged to meet with him at the Elfsong Tavern, where he was to be holding court that evening. The flamboyantly-dressed elven noble greeted Mara and her friends warmly, shouting them all a round of drinks. Erevan also found himself being served a free glass of elverquisst as he listened in stunned silence to a ghostly voice singing an elven ballad about a lover lost at sea. It turned out it was traditional for elves to be given a free drink when they heard the ghost’s song for the first time.

Coran was saddened by Mara’s news that Talis was still missing, and as he listened to her tale of all that had happened in Greenest and what they’d found in the cultists’ camp, he sighed wistfully, thinking back to the days when he’d been able to go on proper adventures of his own.

As the evening wore on, Erevan managed to shake himself out of his reverie and broached the subject of his head injury, hoping that Coran might know of an elven healer who could cure him. Coran suggested he pay a visit to the Moon Grove, a shrine to the Seldarine located in the Outer City suburb of Twin Songs.

The Moon Grove
The next day, the gang headed out to Twin Songs, an area of the city dotted with shrines to all manner of gods. Since they were out that way anyway, Flint decided he’d pay a visit to Danthelon’s Dancing Axe, a shop dealing in dwarf-made goods located near the north end of the Wyrm’s Crossing bridge. He hoped to get some new armor with the funds the Harpers had provided him.

At the grove, Erevan encountered a moon elf priestess named Caelynn Siannodel. She listened kindly to his tale of woe, only to inform him that she lacked the power to heal him herself. However, if he were to drink from the sacred pool and open himself to the influence of the Seldarine, there was a small chance that they might work a miracle for him. Erevan figured it was worth a shot and knelt down by the pool.


SIDE QUEST:
BARROW OF THE EVENSONG

After taking a long drink of the cool, refreshing water from the sacred pool, Erevan lay down and immediately entered a trance. He soon found himself standing on a fog-shrouded road, though he could still faintly feel himself lying on the mossy floor of the Moon Grove. Out of the fog walked his three companions. Looking them up and down, he couldn’t decide if they were really there or if they were just figments of his imagination.

Soon after, a blink dog came bounding out of the fog and barked excitedly at the group. Realizing that the fey creature wanted them to follow it, the group headed off the path in pursuit. The dog led them to an ancient barrow topped with large trees. Spider webs spilled out of a cave entrance off to the left side of the barrow, while the acrid tang of ammonia emanated from another cave entrance to the right, along with some rather bad singing. The blink dog, however, headed directly up to the top of the hill.

At the base of a stirge-infested tree, the PCs discovered a freshly-dug hole leading down into a chamber with a high ceiling. Erevan quietly and expertly tied a rope around the tree without disturbing a single stirge and then slid down into the chamber. The dog blinked down after him and began scratching at a stone archway situated on a dais on the north wall. Several tapestries hung on the walls, depicting scenes of elves going about their lives in the boughs of a massive tree. Sitting in the center of the room was a massive dial covered in a leafy motif. Arranged around the dial were four pillars. Inspecting the archway, Erevan noticed Elvish writing indicating that this was a portal to another world. All he needed to do was sing a certain song, turn the dial towards the pillars in a certain sequence, and the portal would open. There was no explanation of what the song or sequence were, however.

Erevan returned to the rope and tugged on it to let the others know it was safe to come down. Flint and Keo managed OK, but Mara made a bit too much noise, and two stirges followed her down into the chamber. One of them managed to latch on briefly but was quickly ripped off and then incinerated by one of Flint’s fire bolts. Erevan pinned the other one to the wall with a well-placed arrow.

Flint then cast detect magic and picked up a strong aura from the archway, the dial, and all four pillars. It soon became apparent that the blink dog wanted the group to activate the portal so it could go through, so the heroes began searching for clues to help them do just that.

Erevan soon located a secret door in a niche behind one of the tapestries. The group headed through it and followed a corridor to the west that ended in a large room with a giant tree root in the middle. On the root, someone had carved some musical notes and a single line from a song in Elvish: “Dolorous blue for a fine mourning cloak …”

In an alcove to the southeast of this room, the group found a ring of brightly colored flowers. Erevan recognized it as a shrine to the Seldarine and, desperate to cure himself, prayed long and fervently. He then anointed the flowers with a bit of his Berduskan dark wine … and after a moment, a light breeze fluttered through the flowers. Feeling lighter somehow, the elf jumped up, declaring that they should find something to fight so he could test out whether or not he’d been healed!

In an adjoining corridor, the party came across some sarcophagi inscribed with details of the lives of those interred within – all members of an elf clan whose name translated to “Evensong” in the Common tongue. Wisely choosing not to disturb their occupants, the heroes pressed on into a larger burial chamber dedicated to the finest warrior the Evensongs had ever produced. Her sword lay atop her coffin, and as Erevan entered the room in search of more song lyrics, the blade flew up into the air, seemingly challenging him to a duel.

Trying to stab at a flying longsword with a rapier proved rather difficult, so Erevan retreated into the corridor, giving the others room to press the attack. Keo cast faerie fire on the sword, enabling Mara to give it a good whack with her greataxe. Flint then finished it off with a fire bolt. As the sword shattered, a ghostly version of it floated back over to the coffin and thrust down into the lid, splitting it in two!

When nothing emerged from the coffin, Erevan gingerly crept over to have a look inside. The bones of the Evensongs’ most famous warrior had crumbled to dust long ago, but her armor – lightweight studded leather adorned with symbols of nature – remained in pristine condition. Feeling as if the armor was calling to him, he lifted it out and tried it on for size. Much to his delight, it reshaped itself to his form. Instinctively he knew that he could will it to cloak itself as any kind of outfit he could think of. [Yes, folks, Erevan has found a suit of elvish glamered studded leather!]

From here, the group wound their way south to a door made of petrified wood, which opened onto a breezy cavern filled with spider webs. Light from Keo’s lantern reflected off hundreds of spider eyes. Quickly shutting and relocking the door, the heroes headed back towards the portal chamber. Once there, Erevan experimented by singing the lyric he’d found on the root. It caused the pillar to the northeast of the dial to glow blue. They were on the right track!

As it turned out, there was a matching secret door behind a tapestry on the east wall. This led to a corridor heading to another large chamber with a root in it. Again there were runes and musical notes carved into the root, with the line this time reading: “Thoughts of greener days may our songs evoke …”

There was also a skeleton lying on the floor nearby. As the group approached it, a ghostly elven female floated up out of the floor and challenged them! When Erevan introduced himself and explained why he and his companions were intruding in the tomb, the ghost’s demeanor softened. She introduced herself as Sinasooh Evensong, once the caretaker of the barrow but now cursed to unlife as a ghost, unable to move more than 40 feet away from her earthly remains.

The group kindly offered to place her remains in a burial chamber, for which she was grateful. They asked if she knew how to activate the portal. She replied in the affirmative but insisted that they help her clear out the barrow first. Since she was stuck in this room, she was unable to drive away the monsters that had crept into the corners. A foul spider-like creature called an ettercap and its spider minions lived in the caves to the southwest, while a horrid harpy laired to the southeast. As long as they remained, Sinasooh would be unable to find eternal rest.

The heroes were happy to help, so Sinasooh told them about a scrying pool in a room to the north. They used it to spy on the harpy, who was busy squawking to herself as she perched on a spire of rock in the middle of a small pool. They could see a pile of bones from her previous victims nearby, a guttering torch propped up in the middle. Next to the pile sat the harpy’s nest, which appeared to contain an overly-large egg (far too big to have been laid by the harpy herself). Searching around the lair, they also discovered that they’d have to cross a large, dark pool to get to the harpy.

When they approached Sinasooh to ask if there was another way into the harpy’s lair, she told them that they could get to both monsters’ lairs by going through the central root chamber, which lay in between the two. She added that the roots were all from the World Ash, Yggdrasil, which explained why they appeared to be much too big to have come from any of the trees atop the barrow.

In the central root chamber, due south of the portal room, the group found a much larger root, complete with leafy branches. There was even a pair of glowing fruits growing on the root. Luckily, they spotted the room’s guardians – a quartet of violet fungi – in time!

On the Road

Elturel
The PCs met with Leosin and Ontharr at the latter’s headquarters, the tavern known as A Pair of Black Antlers. They told the tale of what they’d found in the dragon hatchery, and Ontharr was suitably impressed. They also passed over the notes and map they’d found in Mondath’s chamber. [Although, come to think of it, Mondath probably should have taken her things back when the PCs were captured.]

Ontharr then challenged them to an arm-wrestling match. He beat Mara once, followed by Flint. Then Mara said she wanted a rematch and beat him, so he suggested a best two out of three, which he ended up winning. They may have even gone to best three out of five. By that time Ontharr had had enough and said it was time to go and inspect his troops. He invited them to come along and partake of some sparring or archery practice or whatever. I don’t think any of them actually did, though.

Erevan mentioned his head injury to Ontharr, who said he could get someone to look into it. When the elf inquired what exactly that would entail, and Ontharr indicated that it would involve quite a bit of prayer, Erevan turned him down. As an native of Evermeet, he wasn’t keen on being beholden to mere human gods. He decided to seek out an elven healer instead.

That evening, the PCs were summoned back to the tavern, where Ontharr gave them lots of alcohol to drink. He and Leosin laid out what they knew and what they wanted the PCs to do. The PCs all readily agreed, since they each had their own bone to pick with the cult. Erevan and Flint both seemed intrigued by Leosin’s description of the Harpers, as well, though they declined to join then and there. Mara, meanwhile, didn’t seem keen on either faction.

[Keo’s player wasn’t present, but in a brief one-on-one later, I had him meet with an Emerald Enclave rep who offered him the same mission and opportunity to join her faction. He agreed to join the Enclave and go on the mission.]

Ontharr furnished the PCs with new equipment and suggested they change their appearance, though I’m not sure any of them really did. Flint, for instance, wasn’t keen on shaving his beard or anything like that. I think Erevan acquired some secondhand clothes in order to appear less conspicuous.

Baldur’s Gate
The next morning, they hopped on another boat (with Flint gaining enough courage through drink to board on his own so Erevan wouldn’t have to put him to sleep again) and headed downriver to Baldur’s Gate. The trip was uneventful, and upon disembarking, they headed for Mara’s family’s mansion in the Upper City.

Over dinner, Mara’s older brother told her of some research their late father (who had been killed in the bombing of the city’s parliament in the lead-up to Bhaal’s bloodsoaked return during the Sundering) had been doing into the origins of the heirloom greataxe Mara carries around. Her father had concluded that the axe might only be a replica of a magical axe wielded by their family’s founding ancestor, Skie Sigursdottir, also known as the Storm Maiden of Ruathym. Her brother’s own research had led him to conclude that Skie was entombed in the necropolis under the cemetery in Tumbledown.

The next day, after the PCs went out to Blackgate and met with Ontharr’s contact, Ackyn Selebon, and discussed options for keeping an eye out for the cultists (Selebon suggested employing some of the city’s many urchins to keep watch and/or taking a stroll through the caravan assembly point once a day), they headed out to Tumbledown. Along the way, Erevan found some urchins and paid them to keep him informed of the goings-on around the caravan yard in Blackgate.


SIDE QUEST:
DUES FOR THE DEAD

In Tumbledown, the PCs discovered that the catacombs were closed to the public due to an undead infestation. Several of the Kelemvorites who tend to the cemetery had been killed by the undead in recent days. Since the cemetery was located in the Outer City, the priests could expect no help from the city’s authorities, so for now they had just sealed the catacombs. The PCs agreed to help them with their problem so that Mara could find her ancestor’s crypt.

The lead Kelemvorite offered to send one of his assistants, a young half-elf woman named Cassyt, as a guide.

After rolling away the stone blocking the entrance to the catacombs, the party headed down into the dark, with Cassyt carrying a lantern to light their way. They prowled through the catacombs, encountering some ghouls hiding amongst some ritually smoked bodies and some zombies in a room that had once been used to kill vampires. They also found some Guild thieves who’d been trapped in a room by the aforementioned zombies. After Mara intimidated them into handing over their ill-gotten gains, they then escorted them back to the surface and handed them over to Cassyt’s boss, Doomguide Glandon.

It was their intention to go back into the city to find Keo before pressing any further into the catacombs.