To Waterdeep or Bust!

A Day of Rest
On the seventh day out from Baldur’s Gate, the caravan stopped for its first rest day. The animals were allowed to relax, and the wagons were patched up. Erevan stepped into his roll as caravan guard sergeant by setting up a roster and making sure all the guards were on the same page.

Keo took them time to find the tiefling Barakis and struck up a conversation with him. The tiefling revealed that he had gone to Little Calimshan after fleeing from the turmoil in his homeland, but he didn’t like it there (too oppressed and dangerous), so now he was heading further north in search of somewhere better. Keo empathized with the tiefling, and the two agreed to get some drinks together later. Mara and Flint merely sat back and observed while off duty.

Erevan also took Losvius Longnose, an overly-curious halfling teamster, aside and warned him that he’d heard about the halfling’s nosey habits. Much to Losvius’ surprise, however, Erevan offered to pay him good money to report on anything noteworthy that he came across while poking around. He warned the halfling to be discreet, though, as there was some “hot” merchandise in the caravan and its handlers wouldn’t take kindly to it being discovered. Losvius readily agreed, of course. Hopefully Erevan wouldn’t be getting him into trouble!

Fungus Humongous
A few days later, a storm rolled in. Lots of rain. Thunder and lightning. The storm went on for two whole days, leaving everyone cold and miserable. On the morning of the third day, everyone woke up to find the ground covered in tiny but rapidly growing mushrooms that let out a puff of black spores and a sound like a baby’s cry when stepped on. The merchants were all terrified, convinced that the mushrooms would doom them all, especially since the animals were all spooked too. Keo, however, knew a thing or two about plants and determined that these were baby shriekers. He wasn’t sure why they were growing on the surface but pointed out that they were pretty harmless at this stage. Their spores were only mildly toxic. He volunteered to help clear a path, as did his companions and several of the other guards. Only the guards were affected by the toxin and ended up spending the rest of the day wracked with grief.

No Room at the Inn
That evening, the caravan approached the last inn south of Trollclaw Ford. The warm light spilling from its windows was inviting, but when the heroes were sent inside to secure some rooms, they discovered that the entire inn had been booked out by a snotty-looking noblewoman and her entourage of sniggering dilettantes. The woman insisted that she was waiting for some party guests to arrive but wouldn’t discuss the details. The innkeeper seemed completely unwilling to make any exceptions and wouldn’t even allow the caravan to stay in the stables (which the noblewoman had also booked out so her horses wouldn’t have to share the building with any other animals), although he seemed visibly embarrassed by it.

While the party discussed whether or not to simply overwhelm the innkeeper and the nobles with the sheer number of people in the caravan, Tyjit Skesh lost her temper and drew her sword. The noblewoman’s minions quickly leapt to their feet, drawing their weapons as well. The noblewoman herself underwent a terrifying transformation, sprouting large leather wings from her back and small horns on her head, as her skin darkened to an unholy shade of red. Keo recognized her as a half-fiend cambion. The fight was on!

As the cambion’s minions came charging across the room, Keo conjured up two brown bears in an attempt to box the half-fiend in the corner. Unfortunately, she was able to evade them by flying up near the ceiling. She then used her fiendish wiles to charm Mara into attacking Keo, who had changed into bear form himself. Between Mara’s greataxe and the minions’ swords, Keo found himself unable to stay in wildshaped for long. He also lost concentration on his conjuration spell, but not before the two bears were able to rough up two of the cambion’s minions.

The cambion shot rays of fire at the heroes and taunted them while she hovered in the air out of reach. Along with her minions’ attacks, the party were quickly overwhelmed. Flint dropped to the ground, though Tyjit managed to stabilize him. Keo soon followed, as did Erevan. Tyjit ran to the front door and called for aid. Orvustia, Leda, and Sulesdeg came running to help. Orvustia headed to assist Erevan, helping him back on his feet, while Leda and Sulesdeg held off the cambion’s minions. Erevan was soon on the floor again, though, as the cambion ordered Mara to chase him around and take him down. Orvustia went to help Keo, but the cambion scorched her with fire and she crumpled onto the ground.

The cambion then ordered Mara to go help herself to a drink, taking her out of the fight for a few moments. Flying over to a table near the bar, she invited Mara to join her while they watched her minions hack away at Sulesdeg and Leda. Sulesdeg fell, but Leda hung in there and ended up being the last one standing. She rushed over to get a healing potion off Erevan’s belt. The cambion, who had by this time introduced herself as Nemeia, ordered Mara to go stop Leda. Unfortunately, Leda gave Mara a few good whacks, enabling the noble fighter to shake off the charm effect. Disappointed, Nemeia flew over to the bar and tried it on Leda, but the veteran guard proved to be too strong-willed. Leda poured the potion down Erevan’s throat, while Mara went to fetch more healing potions from Flint’s bag of holding. With Flint back in the action, the cambion got pounded by magic missiles and soon called it quits, telling the party that they’d ruined her fun. She then plane shifted away in a puff of black smoke.

The battle over, the heroes picked themselves up, revived Sulesdeg and Tyjit, and searched the bodies of the cambion’s goons. Sadly, though, young Orvustia had succumbed to her wounds and was no more.

When the innkeeper came back to his senses (the cambion had also charmed him), he readily agreed to let the entire caravan stay at the inn free of charge (the rooms having already been paid for, after all!). While most members of the caravan were grateful to the adventurers for securing the inn for them, some of the travellers behaved rather oddly. The Appledowns, for instance, chose to stay outside in their wagon, despite the weather, and while Pavel Borsk took a room in the inn, he ordered his bodyguard, Umara, to stay with his wagon. Some of the other travelers who’d been walking also chose to stay in the stables rather than come into the inn. But others, like Imsa and Barakis, gladly partook of the warmth and dryness of the common room. Lai Angesstun droned on about how glad he was not to have to pay for a room, while Morn Amblecrown rudely ignored everyone else. Edhelri was pleased that heroes and their fellow guards were able to clear out the awful people, though she gives Erevan a bit of a chiding for allowing Orvustia to get herself killed.

In the morning, Orvustia’s body was buried under a cairn of rocks, and Edhelri instructed Erevan to write a letter to her family explaining how she’d died. The letter was left at the inn to be taken back to Baldur’s Gate by the next southbound caravan that came through. The caravan also confiscated the cambion’s fine horses.

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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.