Oyaviggaton

In which our heroes face off against Arauthator in his iceberg lair and live to tell the tale!

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Note: This recap covers two sessions.

Part I: Against the Dragon
When it was clear that the ice toads weren’t going to stop them, the heroes collected their things, jury-rigged some crampons for their feet, and ventured out into the dragon’s lair.

Following a wide, circular tunnel that sloped up and down at odd intervals, they snuck past a chamber full of kobolds then came to a vast cavern filled with fog, in which loomed large shapes. Eventually they found themselves in an empty cave with a ramp sloping up out of the fog.

Flint cast invisibility on Roscoe so he could scout ahead unseen (as well as telepathic bond on the group so they could all stay in touch). Roscoe spotted a blue-skinned troll lurking in an alcove at the top of the ramp. Sneaking past, he entered another cave containing a large tent that looked like it would have been more at home in the deserts of Calimshan.

Slipping around to the back of the tent, Roscoe found another ramp sloping down into darkness. Creeping down, he found several makeshift bookshelves containing a number of books and scrolls that seemingly made his skin crawl just to look at them. The opening of a large chute yawned in the floor to the west.

Climbing back up to the tent, he pulled the makeshift walls apart just enough to peek through. Inside, he could see a tiefling sitting at a desk, with two nervous-looking kobolds in attendance. A brazier filled with warm coals gave off enough light and heat to make the interior quite pleasant. Although her back was to him, Roscoe was sure that the tiefling was the missing Brotherhood mage, Maccath!

Having telepathically reported his findings to the group as he went along, Roscoe waited for the others to come up with a plan. They rushed up the ramp and quickly dispatched the blue-skinned troll. As they rushed into the tent, they surprised the kobolds, who panicked and made a run for it, only to be swiftly cut down as well.

Maccath looked up at her would-be rescuers with disinterest. “Have you come to rescue me or kill me? Not that it makes much difference …”

The heroes quickly concluded from the tiefling’s demeanor that she was under some kind of spell. Keo dispelled it and suddenly Maccath came to herself. After bringing everyone up to speed on her activities during her years of captivity, Maccath pointed out that they’d have no hope of getting away from the iceberg with the dragon still present. Her absence would be noticed in due course and the dragon would hunt them down and kill them while they were out on the ice. The only real option would be to strike the dragon hard and fast and deal him a big enough blow – to his ego, if not his body – that he’d spend months sulking in one of his other lairs.

Maccath lent Skie her ring of cold resistance and let Flint rifle through the scrolls in the scriptorium below. After spending a bit too long hatching a plan for Maccath’s liking, the heroes eventually tied some rope together, tossed it down the chute, drank a few potions, cast a few preparatory spells, and then hastened down into the frigid darkness.

Arauthator somehow knew they were coming and was lurking in a pool at the western end of his lair, only his head showing above the slushy water. The heroes found themselves on an icy ledge, encrusted with coins and gems frozen into the walls and floor.

As you might expect, a fierce battle ensued. Spells were slung, dragon-slaying arrows and magic axes were hurled. Icy walls went up and fiery walls brought them down. Freezing fog froze lungs and icy breath froze flesh. Wings beat, tails slapped, claws ripped. Two aquatic trolls appeared and ripped poor Imsa to shreds before they could be stopped. Eventually, though, the dragon fled in a fury, and the heroes breathed sighs of relief.

Part 2: Looting the Dragon’s Lair
With the dragon dead, and Imsa’s body on ice, Flint cast detect magic and found two magic rings and a magic amulet. They dug those out of the ice, along with some gems and a fancy-looking eyepatch, and then climbed back up to the scriptorium. Maccath proceeded to collect all the Brotherhood’s stolen tomes and stuffed them into Flint’s magic bag.

They hurried back the way they’d came and climbed up the shaft to find themselves emerging in the Ice Hunter shaman’s hut. She was surprised to see them but made no attempt to stop them as they went back out into the snow and trudged over to the icy stairs, where Flint shot a fire bolt into the sky as a flare. Moments later, Desharra showed up with her griffons. They informed her that they’d chased away the dragon and found the person they were looking for. However, they just had a few more things to do before they’d be ready to leave.

Trudging back to the Ice Hunter village, they found the chieftain and informed him that they’d driven off the dragon. The Ice Hunters were ecstatic and, after a short celebration, began the arduous process of packing up their village. They intended to slip away into the depths of the Sea of Moving Ice, where they hoped the dragon would never find them again. Maccath reckoned they’d be OK. It was unlikely Arauthator would bother tracking them down, since they had no real contact with the outside world and thus would not be spreading word of his humiliating defeat.

After this, the heroes descended back down into Arauthator’s lair and sought out the ice toads. Maccath called for Marfulb, the toads’ leader, who came and spoke with Flint at length about Arauthator’s life. As the others began to get bored, Roscoe asked the ice toad if there was any more treasure in the lair. Marfulb explained that it depended on what he considered treasure. Some of the giants on display in the Hall of Giants, for instance, still wore some giant-sized jewelry. But there was also a chest of coins and jewels sitting on the deck of a rebuilt longship in the other trophy hall, where Arauthator also displayed his more bestial conquests: behirs, remorhazes, and abominable yetis.

Thanking Marfulb, the heroes retreated. Not wanting to tangle with the ice toads, they had Maccath guide them through the lair’s central chambers. As they attempted to pass another chute leading down into the caverns below, Keo’s weight dislodged part of the icy wall, which knocked Roscoe down the chute. They were able to fish him back up without too much trouble, though.

They then proceeded into the Trophy Hall, past all the enormous frozen corpses of monsters and onto the deck of the longship, which Skie could tell had been incorrectly rebuilt, though it didn’t look like too bad a job. Sure enough, there was an option chest of treasure. Flint opened his magic bag while Roscoe made to dump the contents into it.

As soon as the halfling’s hands touched the treasure, though, red light flared in the fog and the cracking of ice heralded the awakening of one of the remorhaz corpses! It appeared that Arauthator had set up some kind of trap! The remorhaz shrieked and attacked the would-be thieves. Roscoe delivered multiple nasty stabs, while Skie chucked her axe and Flint slung his spells. Keo changed into bear form and charged in, only to find that every bite was painful as the remorhaz was extremely hot! It got him up in its mouth and attempted to swallow him, at one point forcing him to revert to his normal form, but in the end the monster was slain (for the second time?) and the hard-won loot theirs!

Desharra agreed to fly the group straight to Luskan, where they returned Maccath and the stolen books to the Brotherhood. Once there, Keo arranged to have a gentle repose spell cast on Imsa’s remains, in order to buy himself more time to gather the materials he needed to bring her back to life.

And now that Maccath was safely back at home, she was happy to answer the heroes’ questions about the draakhorn. As it so happened, the horn had once been in Arauthator’s lair, but some humans in cultist garb had showed up sometime in the past year and had taken it away. It was an ancient relic that Tiamat had given to the chromatic dragons in their wars against the giants. There had once been coded blasts that could be used to send messages, but these were lost to the ages. She was not sure what the cult was doing with it now.

As the heroes were making ready to depart, Cashaan the Red, informed them that, in return for their help in rescuing Maccath and recovering the items Arauthator had stolen, the Arcane Brotherhood would be happy to join the coalition against the Cult of the Dragon! The heroes took this good news with them back through the magic portal to Waterdeep.

Keo wasted no time in using a sapphire he’d taken from the dragon’s hoard to pay for various rare oils and unguents he needed for the reincarnation spell. Once all was ready, he called upon the ancient magic and created a new body for Imsa’s spirit to inhabit. As the body, which was that of a strongheart halfling, came to life, its skin and hair rapidly changed to green. It would appear that whatever had caused this condition of hers was not merely physical! Keo resolved to get to the bottom of it somehow. In the meantime, he would have to help Imsa come to terms with the shock of finding herself in a completely different body.

Second Council of Waterdeep
The heroes soon learned that a political shakeup had occurred in their absence: the Masked Lords of Waterdeep had dumped Lord Neverember and appointed Lady Silverhand as the new Open Lord of Waterdeep in his place! This was quite the coup, and while not everyone was happy with it, many people were breathing a sigh of relief.

And it was Lady Laeral who directed the second session of the Council of Waterdeep. A rather glum-looking Lord Neverember sat to her right, along with Zelenn the White from the Arcane Brotherhood. Dagult had clearly pulled some strings to get his old friend to be the mages’ representative. Her presence on the council was welcomed by everyone except Ontharr Frume, who was not happy because the Brotherhood did not police its members. “Their leader is a blinking necromancer, for gods’ sake!” he spluttered. Everyone else ignored him.

As the council meeting got underway and the various delegates reported on cult activity in their respective territories, it became apparent that the cult was increasing its raids. When it got to be Delaan Winterhound’s turn to speak, the half-elf began to explain that the Enclave was investigating reports of dragon raids in the Misty Forest, only to be rudely interrupted by King Melandrach, who insisted that the raids had been dealt with by increased patrols and improved fortifications.

Lady Laeral then introduced a familiar face: Elia, the Turami noblewoman and friend of Lady Haventree whom the heroes had met at the first Council Quiet some months ago. Much to everyone’s surprise, she revealed herself to be, in truth, a silver dragon named Otaaryliakkarnos. She informed the council that the metallic dragons of the Sword Coast were arranging a council of their own. She recommended that the council send representatives, and so, of course, the heroes were chosen.

After the meeting, Delaan approached the heroes privately and told them more about what was happening in the Misty Forest. King Melandrach’s own son, Prince Alagarthas, was also convinced that something sinister was going on, for there were reports from survivors that the dragon was being controlled by a humanoid, possibly even one of the cult’s wyrmspeakers! If the heroes wished to investigate further, Delaan suggested they head to the elven village of Altand first, as it had mysteriously survived intact, whereas all the other raided villages had been destroyed.

The heroes agreed that it would be worth investigating. However, they decided that it might be worth talking to the metallic dragons first, and so agreed to attend the dragons’ council with Elia (aka “Otaaryliakkarnos”).

First Council of Waterdeep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 …

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.