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.

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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.