As the heroes left the palace after another council meeting, they were approached by two pallid humans in dark robes. Up close, Flint and Roscoe noticed occult symbols stitched into their garments. The men explained that their master, one Lord Volmer, wished to have an audience with them at their earliest convenience. He would await their arrival in his tent, situated on the fields north of the city.
The heroes agreed to visit with the lord, though they chose not to go immediately. They took care of a few errands first and then headed through the Field Ward and out the North Gate, where they discovered a large tent in the Calishite style. The two robed men who had spoken with them previously stood at attention outside the entrance.
Using the hubbub of people coming and going on the road as cover, Flint cast invisibility on Roscoe, and the sneaky halfling crept around the tent and then attempted to slip underneath the canvas at the back. Much to his surprise, he found himself coming out the other side near the guards. It was a magic tent! A fact that Flint confirmed after casting detect magic as a ritual.
Suspicious, the heroes nevertheless walked up to the guards, who ushered them inside. They were somewhat taken aback to find that the interior of the tent was larger than its exterior suggested. There even seemed to be multiple rooms just out of sight. The main room, however, was sumptuously decorated. A robed and goateed man appeared out of a side room and welcomed them.
The man introduced himself as Lord Volmer. He offered them food and drink, delivered by unseen hands. The heroes demurred, remembering what had happened to them the last time they had accepted food from strangers (see their adventures on Oyaviggaton).
Lord Volmer claimed to represent interested parties who wished to see the heroes succeed in preventing Tiamat from entering Faerûn. He explained that she had once ruled Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells, and that her successor, Zariel, wished for her to be gone. To that end, her devils were aiding the renegade Red Wizards of the Thayan Resurrection to bring about the cult’s plans. Another former ruler of Avernus, Bel, was keen to thwart Tiamat’s plan, however. He was willing to lend infernal aid to the alliance’s cause via the Red Wizards still loyal to Szass Tam. Lord Volmer was their representative. He offered the heroes their hearts’ desires in return for accepting the devils’ aid.
The heroes hesitated. Lord Volmer offered to give them a tenday to think it over. Thanking him for his generosity, the heroes departed and headed back into the city.
As they made their way through the jumbled streets of Field Ward, they spotted a familiar face: Barakis, the tiefling dragon cultist from the caravan! He stood, leaning against a well, his arms folded across his chest. When he spotted them, he stepped forward, a smirk on his face. “Hello, friends!” he called. “Severin sends his regards!”
And with that, a whole flight of red dragons thundered overhead and the Field Ward went up in flames. As chaos ensued, a pair of insectoid fiends appeared at either end of the street, wicked-looking tridents held in their pincers. Clouds of poisonous gases billowed out of their mouths and people all around them began to choke to death. Keo recognized them as mezzoloths, fiendish mercenaries with thick carapaces and many immunities and resistances. To top it off, two tattooed Red Wizards began casting spells from open windows to either side of the street. The heroes had been ambushed!
In the chaos that followed, Keo polymorphed Barakis into a field mouse, and the shocked cultist crawled into the well to hide. Keo then turned into a spirit bear (air elemental) to get at the male wizard on an upper floor, but the wizard banished him to a demiplane and escaped. Flint managed to rescue a few people by leading them into a warehouse, but he soon fell to the wizards’ spells and the choking fumes of the mezzoloths.
Roscoe and Skie had their work cut out for them then. Skie tried to sneak up on the female wizard, but she had powerful enchantment magics and was using a poor family as human shields. She forced Skie to attack the father and one of the children, killing them both. Roscoe spent much of his time trying to keep Flint from dying, only to have to fight Barakis when he climbed back out of the well, his polymorphing having worn off when Keo was banished to another plane.
To make matters worse, a young red dragon swooped overhead, lighting the warehouse on fire. The heroes attacked it from range and it flew off down the street. Eventually Keo returned and went to help his comrades. He wished that Imsa had not chosen to end her apprenticeship and head back to Goldenfields. The group could have really used her healing magic at this time!
In the end, all four heroes remained alive. The mezzoloths were both defeated, sent back to the lower plane from which they’d been summoned. Barakis lay dead in the street, amidst the bodies of all the innocent bystanders who’d choked to death. The female Red Wizard also lay dead in the house, but the male wizard had teleported away. Skie had given the bereaved mother and her surviving child a bag of gold coins as a way of saying sorry before sending them on their way.
As the heroes later learned, the attack on the Field Ward had been a distraction, as had other attacks around the city, all designed to draw resources away from the cult’s main goals: assassinate the heroes and reclaim the black dragon mask. While the cult had failed on both counts, the cost was high: the Field Ward was now a smoking ruin, and most of its inhabitants were dead.