The Cult Strikes Back

In which the Cult of the Dragon attempts to assassinate our heroes.

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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.

End Game

The Red Wizards
While catching their breath in Rezmir’s chamber, the heroes heard some kobolds come open the cool storage across the hall. They were babbling about how the cultists didn’t understand the dragon, Cloudchaser, like they did. One kobold reminded another that the best thing to do was to just toss the frozen meat into the cave and then run. Kree forgot to do that yesterday and is now a permanent fixture of Cloudchaser’s lair. The heroes filed this information away for later.

Flint convinced the others that they needed to confront the Red Wizards in their hidden sanctuary before doing anything else. Roscoe attempted to trick the wizards into coming out into the antechamber by posing as a cultist summoning them to speak with Rezmir, but the wizards wouldn’t bite, replying that Rezmir could come and see them herself.

Recovering quickly, Roscoe shouted that Rezmir couldn’t come because she’d been killed by a bear and that actually the wizards needed to let him in because the bear was going to kill him next! It was unlikely that the wizards bought this story either but it did get them to open the door at least. Azbara Jos himself ushered the heroes in and introduced them to his superior, Rath Modar, who eyed them up haughtily from his position behind a lectern.

The heroes were surprised that the Thayans would actually invite them in, but things quickly turned sour as Rath remarked that he had little patience for ruffians seeking to stop the inevitable. The heroes bristled at this, and as a fight broke out, it turned out that the Rath standing at the lectern was just an illusion. The real Rath was invisibly watching them from somewhere else in the room.

One of the gargoyle statues animated and moved to attack Flint. Roscoe stabbed Azbara with his daggers, then Skie bashed him over the head with the butt of her axe, knocking him out cold. Rather reappeared near another vanishing wall and attempted to cast a defensive spell on himself which Flint was able to counter. Soon after, the gargoyle was finished off by Flint and Keo in bear form.

Frustrated, Rath vanished again before loosing a fireball, which set much of the room’s contents on fire. The outer wall then vanished, revealing another landing platform, and Flint surmised that Rath had just fled. After securing Azbara, the heroes set about saving what papers they could from the flames.

Flint used his scroll of comprehend languages to identify the hefty tome that Rath had been reading as a book full of devil-summoning rituals. There was even a whole chapter devoted to summoning Tiamat herself, although the specifics of the ritual itself weren’t included in the book. Knowing that his Harper superiors would want to see it, he gingerly stuffed the book into his bag of holding, although with various letters showing that Rath Modar was in contact with Severin, the leader of the Cult of the Dragon, as well as various other Red Wizards back in Thay. It was clear from this correspondence that Rath was an instrumental player in the Thayan Resurrection resistance movement.

The Vampire
The heroes deposited the unconscious Azbara in Rezmir’s room and left Keo to guard him while they headed back upstairs to deal with the vampire. First, though, they opted to quickly explore the rest of the buildings on this level. The first building turned out to be a stables housing several wyverns. It appeared that the wyverns they’d ridden to the castle had been moved in here as well. Not wanting to disturb the ornery creatures, the heroes moved on. The next building was a barracks housing approximately a dozen cultists, most of whom appeared to be resting. Not wanting to disturb them either, the heroes moved on to the last building, which looked to be a kitchen full of kobold servants watched over by a griffon. How odd!

Heading back up the icy stairs to the upper courtyard, the heroes discovered that their rope was still attached to the side of the vampire’s tower. Roscoe scrambled up first, followed by Skie, who then lifted the one-armed Flint up to the open doorway.

The lid of the vampire’s coffin was closed, and the one surviving minion was nowhere in sight. Roscoe hefted the makeshift stake Flint had fashioned for him from an arrow and crept towards the coffin. Just as he was reaching for the lid, the remaining vampire spawn leapt out from behind the coffin and grabbed him. The wiry Halfling slipped free and stabbed at the creature with his dragontooth dagger. Skie then stepped up and slashed at with her axe. Although the creature managed to get its fangs into Skie’s neck again, it was not enough. Blade and spell swiftly ended its miserable unlife.

Cautiously, the companions raised the lid of the coffin, fully expecting the vampire to be waiting for them … but no, it appeared she had gone back to sleep. Without hesitation, Roscoe thrust the stake into the vampire’s heart. As her eyes popped open in surprise, Skie slashed down at the vampire’s neck. The three heroes then wrestled the coffin off the mound of dirt and slid it across the icy floor to the open doorway, where they pushed it out into the air. It smashed open on the ground, exposing the vampire’s body to the harsh sunlight. Like Rezmir, she was soon reduced to ash.

Now all they had to was tackle the dragon, Cloudchaser.

Castle in the Sky

The Vampire’s Plan
Just as the heroes were leaving the crumbling tower, the vampire called out to Flint and Roscoe, imploring them to return. Evading their companions, the pair climbed back into the tower and headed over to where their new friend was hiding in the darkness of the broken stairwell. There was something she wanted them to do for her … namely, kill Rezmir and bring the half-dragon’s sword and mask to her.

Down on the ground, Keo and Skie were wondering what was happening with their friends. Why had they gone back into the tower? Ah, but here they came, climbing back down the rope again. And now they wanted to go and kill Rezmir?! But those damned vampires had had a veritable feast and only Flint was in any shape to fight. Despite Roscoe’s protests, the group headed over to the steering tower to find Blagothkus.

The Steering Chamber
Luckily for them, a knock on the door was all that was needed to get the giant’s attention. The massive portal opened on its own, revealing a staircase spiralling up the inside wall. Cresting the stairs, the heroes found themselves in a room seemingly without walls. In fact, the castle itself and the clouds around it seemed to have disappeared as well. The room provided a commanding view of the world and the sky in every direction. Blagothkus stood in the middle of the chamber, with what looked to be magic runes floating like large snowflakes floating all around him.

“We, uh, had a bit of trouble with the vampire. We failed to kill her.” Keo confessed.

“What? No! We just decided it was better if she stayed alive. She’s actually quite nice.” Roscoe protested.

“You fools!” thundered Blagothkus. “What have you done?!”

Keo expressed a desire to try again but indicated that the group needed a chance to rest. Blagothkus bluntly replied that there wasn’t enough time for that, as the vampire would undoubtedly leave the confines of her tower and carry out her threat to desecrate his wife’s tomb as soon as the sun went down. She might also hunt down the heroes and finish draining them of their blood. She might even warn Rezmir, and then they’d have the full contingent of dragon cultists after them.

After some discussion, an agreement was reached: the heroes would visit Blagothkus’ guests, a mated pair of stone giants named Wiglof and Hulda. The cloud giant thought they might have some restorative magic at their disposal. He would then give the heroes a second chance to dispose of the vampire. Fail again and the consequences would be dire.

The Stone Giants
The heroes thanked Blagothkus and left the tower, the door locking shut again behind them. Taking the stairs down to the lower courtyard, they crossed the vast open space to the open archway leading to the stone giants’ quarters. They found the male giant, Wigolf, staring into a large cauldron sitting atop a huge stone table. His partner, Hulda, sat dreamily in a chair nearby.

Keo opted to take the lead, knowing that stone giants generally regarded his kind with some affection. (That is to say, stone giants regarded goliaths as stunted children who’d lost their way in the dreamworld that is the surface.)

Hulda came to speak with Keo, staring at a point above his head. The druid explained that Blagothkus had sent them down here after they’d tangled with a vampire and lost. They were in need of healing, and the cloud giant had though the stone giants might be able to help. Hulda turned to Wiglof and rumbled at him in their own language, and then the male giant tore himself away from his musings and reached into a large chest. He pulled out a handful of what looked to be diamonds. After ladling some of the brew in the cauldron into a stone mug the size of Roscoe, he crushed the diamonds in his fist and stirred them into the drink as he intoned an incantation. Hulda then took the mug and offered it to the heroes, some of whom had to struggle a bit to reach its contents.

Keo, Roscoe, and Skie all found themselves feeling full of life again. Even though Flint had not been bitten by any of the vampires, he decided to have a taste himself and soon found himself wondering why he’d ever regarded the vampire as a friend. [DM note: I had the brew grant the benefits of the greater restoration spell.]

Before anyone could have a second sip, Hulda whisked the mug away and Wiglof poured its contents back into the cauldron.
Thanking the giants for their generosity, Keo decided to try his luck and asked Hulda if she could tell them where Rezmir was. She pointed dreamily at the east wall. He also managed to get her to tell him that Rezmir didn’t leave her room much and that she has two blue-scaled drakes as pets.

Exploring the Keep
Heading back out into the courtyard, the heroes decided to explore it before heading back upstairs. They found that there were two entrances to the large keep-like building sitting directly under the upper courtyard: a set of double doors on the south side, east of the stone giants’ chamber, and a single door on the west side, north of the chamber. Roscoe indicated that he’d prefer to start with the west door.

The door was made of ice. Upon opening it, the party found themselves looking down a long corridor heading east towards a dark, seemingly empty antechamber. Another door stood on the north wall. Unlike the other doors the party had encountered so far, this one appeared to be size for humans. It opened into a well-furnished but uninhabited room. While the others poked around the furnishings for anything interesting, Flint was intrigued by the oddly unadorned outer wall. The moment his hand touched the wall, it disappeared, revealing nothing but open sky beyond a small ice platform jutting out of the outer wall! The wind began whipping around inside the room. A minute later, the wall rematerialized, much to everyone’s relief.

Moving on, the party reached the empty antechamber, where they found another corridor leading south to the set of double doors. Two more doors, both sized for humans, faced each other from across the corridor. While Roscoe snuck ahead to listen at the doors, Flint felt a strange tingle of magic. Casting detect magic as a ritual revealed that a large portion of the ice wall in the northeast corner of the antechamber was illusory! Sticking his hand to it, expecting perhaps that it would disappear like the wall in the guest room, he was surprised to find that there was not really anything there at all. Peering through it, he could see a hidden door in an alcove on the far side.

Disappearing through the fake wall, Flint attempted to creep up to the door quietly and peer through the keyhole. He could make out a large room with carpets on the floor and horse skulls nailed to the ceiling. The room also contained desks and lecterns laden with books. Furthermore, in the center of the room were six gargoyle statues and two red-robed, tattooed humans, one of whom he recognized as Azbara Jos, the wizard who’d joined the caravan in Daggerford.

Unfortunately, Flint had made too much noise approaching the door, and the two Thayans were now glancing over at it nervously, waiting for whatever was going to come through. Flint hurriedly retreated, fully expecting the wizards to come charging after him, slinging spells as they emerged through the illusory wall. But come they did not!

Roscoe, meanwhile, had discovered that the eastern door led to a cold storage room full of meat and other foodstuffs, while the western door led to what looked to be Rezmir’s private chambers! He could see the half-dragon reclining on her bed through the keyhole – and, in doing so, discovered that the door was locked with quite a clever mechanism. As the others gathered in the hall behind him, Roscoe attempted to pick the lock. As flubbed the first attempt, a low growl emanated from the other side of the door. Uh oh!

Rezmir
Without a moment to lose, Skie brushed Roscoe aside and, channeling her inner rage, smashed the door open with one swift kick. Rezmir was ready, hurling a glowing green blob of acid at Skie. The barbarian was too quick, and the blob whizzed past her ear and slammed into the corridor wall, dissolving a small chunk of the ice. Flint responded by conjuring up a storm sphere inside Rezmir’s room.

Though Rezmir was able to delay the inevitable by conjuring up magical darkness, luck (and possibly a god or two) was with the heroes. Skie and Roscoe were still able to hit the guard drakes that had bounded up to attack her even though they couldn’t see the beasts, and Flint was able to strike Rezmir repeatedly with bolts of lightning from the sphere. Keo dispelled Rezmir’s darkness, then lit her up with faerie fire. Rezmir got one good hit in with her wicked-looking black-bladed greatsword, which seemed to suck some of Skie’s life force out of her in a manner not dissimilar to a vampire’s bite, but then Roscoe stepped out from behind the barbarian and stabbed the half-dragon with his magic dagger.

Rezmir looked surprised as her body suddenly burst into flames, reducing her in seconds to a mere pile of ash. All that was left was the evil-looking sword, a mask in the shape of a black dragon’s face, and a small bejewelled badge in the shape of the cult insignia.
Keo attempted to feed Skie some goodberries, but the sword’s lingering effects rendered them ineffectual for a while. Roscoe wondered aloud if the sword was inhabited by a spirit, much in the same way Mara’s axe had been. Much to everyone’s surprise, the sword replied in the affirmative! Its voice was deep and imperious – a voice used to being obeyed. It bluntly told the little rogue that he was not worthy of wielding it and dared him to pick it up.

Ignoring the sword, Roscoe went and investigated a chest resting on Rezmir’s desk. After picking the lock, his eyes lit up as he found it to be filled with treasure! He sighed with longing as the chest was snatched away from him and its contents poured into Flint’s magic bag. The dwarf, meanwhile, had cast detect magic again and picked up strong vibes from both the mask and the sword. The badge also detected as magical, as did, oddly enough, the few shredded bits of carpet strewn about the floor.

Fed up with the sword’s relentless taunts, Keo grabbed a sheet off Rezmir’s bed and used it to wrap the sword up, hoping that would keep it quiet. Unfortunately, it just started laughing at him in his head. Roscue insisted that they take it to the vampire. The others were not so keen.

Under Castle Naerytar

The Red Wizard
As the group prepared to leave the observatory in search of a safe place to rest, they heard footsteps on the stairs. A friendly voice called out not to shoot as Azbara Jos, the Red Wizard from the caravan, came into view. “Aha! I thought it was you fellows from the caravan!” he exclaimed as he came to a stop at the top of the stairs.

What ensued was an awkward conversation where the heroes attempted to position themselves to grab the wizard while he questioned them regarding what they knew about the cults’ plans, where and how they had obtained their information, and whether or not they thought the cult had much of a chance to succeed. The heroes seem disinclined to answer, so Azbara threw them a bone: he told them that the cult had a magic portal in the caverns beneath the castle.

When the group asked where the portal led, the wizard simply told them that they’d have to go through it to find out. They asked him what his involvement was, and he replied that he was a member of the Thayan Resurrection – a resistance movement intent on driving out the undead rulers of their homeland – and it just so happened that the cult’s plans aligned with theirs at the present time. Azbara also informed the group that Rezmir had gone to quell their little lizardfolk rebellion, while Dralmorrer was rallying his troops in the great hall.

When Azbara sensed that the heroes were getting ready to jump him, he took his leave, quickly scurrying down the stairs. As Keo made to follow, the wizard muttered a word of magic and disappeared. Frustrated by the wizard’s escape, the heroes decided to make the most of things and searched around the second floor of the keep. The main room appeared to be a sort of common area and office, with a small hearth and a writing desk. A door led to Dralmorrer’s private quarters. The PCs spent a good few minutes searching around. Erevan even thought to look under the carpets, where he found a loose floorboard, under which was hidden a small lockbox. He managed to pick the lock on his second try and found Dralmorrer’s emergency funds inside (some gold and silver coins and a mix of precious stones). Flint dumped the box into the bag of holding.

The heroes then used their sending stone to let Leosin know what they’d learned so far. He thanked them and asked them to head through the portal if they could to see where it led.

The dwarf then cast rope trick and the companions crawled up into the extradimensional space to get some much-needed rest. At one point, they noticed a couple of cultists poke their heads around the door, but seeing no one in the room, they departed again. It would appeared that the cultists had been mobilized and were searching the castle for the intruders.

The heroes chose not to go up against the full might of the castle’s forces, so they retreated to the lizardfolk camp. There they met up with Snapjaw, who told them of the glorious victory against the bullywugs, most of whom had turned and run at the sight of Pharblex’s head being paraded around by the lizardfolk. By the time Rezmir had arrived to put a stop to the fighting, most of the bullywugs were either dead or fleeing into the swamp, and the lizardfolk were celebrating. Snapjaw invited the group into one of the longhouses and told them that they could spend the night there safely. His people would cover for them if the cultists came calling.

The Caverns
In the morning, the companions resolved to find a way down into the caverns. They recalled that the lizardfolk had suspected that Pharblex had an underwater access, so they asked Snapjaw to find out. He sent some lizardfolk out to investigate. They located a tunnel in the murky water south of the bullywug camp. Flint was not keen to go in the water at all, so Erevan offered him an entire bottle of Berduskan dark wine to help him steel his nerves. Once Flint was pleasantly drunk, Keo cast water breathing on everyone, and they slipped out of the longhouse and headed towards the pool.

The journey through the tunnel was unpleasant but relatively swift and painless, thanks to Keo’s magic. The goliath also cast darkvision on Mara and himself, as they were the only ones who couldn’t see in the dark. After about 300 feet, the group emerged into a large underground lake. As they surfaced, they could see that the ceiling was only about 30 feet above them. The chamber was filled with the croaking of frogs, and they could make out a few of the amphibians lurking on the dry land.

As they emerged from the pool, they discovered that they had three options: a passage to the south, stairs ascending to the east, and a path leading north along the shore of the lake. They went south first and found two bullywugs guarding what turned out to be a frog tadpole hatchery. They intimidated/persuaded the bullywugs to run away, and the cowardly creatures both dropped their spears and dove into the pool.

They then went and checked out the stairs, which led up into an empty chamber that opens into another chamber filled with centipedes. They could see another set of stairs heading up on the far side but weren’t too keen to cross the centipede lair to get to it, so they returned to the lake and moved north along the shore.

As they reached the north end of the lake, they found a mist-filled passage leading up to an intersection containing a bank of fog rising three feet off the ground. Two passages led west, while a larger passage headed east. Since the mist seemed to be coming from that direction, they went that way first. They soon came to a tall cliff, at the top of which was a wooden crane and pulley system. Next to it was a ladder. Up they went and another flight of stairs led them up to a large chamber lit by a single torch burning brightly next to a set of ascending stairs. Beyond that was another, rougher flight of stairs leading down. In the middle of the room was a shallow pool of water, which appeared to be seeping out of a crack in the north wall. They headed down the far stairs and found a large chamber filled with mud, in which two bullywugs were happily making sure it was just the way they liked it. They let them be and headed back into the main chamber.

Next Flint turned Erevan invisible, and the half-elf slipped through the crack in the wall to see what was on the other side. (He was somewhat obsessed with figuring out where all the mist was coming from.) He saw nothing, but something saw him, despite the invisibility. A section of the wall next to him started oozing down and a pseudopod lashed out at him. Ducking, he retreated back through the crack, grateful that the thing didn’t follow.

Then Flint decided to cast detect magic as a ritual and walked around the caverns looking for magic. He didn’t find any until he pushed on through to the mist-filled room in the northwest corner, where he picked up conjuration magic emanating from the floor. Erevan and Flint used prestidigitation to briefly clear away some of the mist so they could see what was down there. They caught a few glimpses of what looked to be a permanent teleportation circle etched into the rock. Flint knew he’d need some kind of passcode or key to activate it, which meant heading back up into the castle.

It’s a Trap!
Before heading into the castle, however, they reckoned they’d better check out that last unexplored passage to the south of the portal chamber. They found some stairs descending to what looked like a shrine. The room was filled with frog carvings of various sizes, many placed on niches in the walls, as well as seemingly random collection of religious iconography that appeared to have been included for no discernible purpose.

They pressed on to the south and found Pharblex’s sanctum, with a muddy desk and chair, a box of candles, and a wooden chest. Treasure! Erevan headed over and checked the chest for traps. He could tell that it was rigged up so that anyone who wasn’t careful would cause some cleverly hidden clay pots in the ceiling to fall down around the chest. He gingerly set about disarming the trap but unfortunately only succeeded in setting it off! Five clay pots crashed to the ground, releasing a potent hallucinogen that quickly spread through the room!

The entire group succumbed to the poison. Keo came to believe that he was a frog and felt called to go and dive into the lake. The others, however, all saw each other as nightmarish frog-like monstrosities and proceeded to attack each other. Jamna turned on Erevan and took him out with two quick jabs from her poisoned shortswords. Mara attacked Jamna, and then Flint attacked Mara with bolts of fire. With Erevan down, Jamna turned to attack Mara. The warrior woman didn’t stand a chance and soon fell to the ground. Flint then shot his fire bolts at Jamna and nearly took her out before he, too, felt the call of the lake. He turned and ran out of the chamber. Jamna followed. Flint fired a shot back at the gnome, dropping her to the ground, then ran and dove into the lake and started swimming after Keo.

Luckily for the heroes, the druid’s water breathing spell was still active, so there was no need to worry about drowning! Eventually, the hallucinogen wore off, allowing Flint and Keo to come to their senses. Climbing back out of the pool, they hurried back to the sanctum. They found Jamna unconscious but stable in the shrine room. Unfortunately, when they reached Pharblex’s sanctum, they found that both Erevan and Mara had succumbed to their wounds. Flint took the opportunity to look in the chest, now that the trap had been sprung. Inside were two spellbooks! Flipping through them, he saw that one had once belonged to a slightly more powerful evoker, while the other had belonged to a significantly more powerful mage with an eclectic taste in spells.

Reviving Jamna, Flint and Keo dragged their fallen comrades’ bodies out through the underwater passage and back to one of the lizardfolk longhouses, where they proceeded to loot their bodies. They also let Leosin know via the sending stone that they’d be in need of reinforcements.

What will happen next?! Tune in next time to find out!

DM Note: Mara’s player was out sick, but her husband, who plays Erevan, was directed to play her. He is considering the possibility of bringing back his halfling rogue from our previous Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign (seeing as how Phandalin is practically a stone’s throw from the Mere). For his wife, I have extended the same one-time offer I gave him way back at the beginning (when Erevan was slain by Lennithon the blue dragon in Greenest) and my own wife just recently (when Flint was slain by the giant crocodile in the swamp): namely, that she can choose to have her PC survive at the cost of suffering a (semi-)permanent injury of some kind. Erevan’s injury was that neurological, confusion-based injury, while Flint’s was the loss of his arm. We shall see what Mara’s player decides. She could also potentially bring back her LMoP character, although you’d be forgiven for not being able to tell the difference between that character and Mara, as they are both based on the Starter Set noble fighter pregen.

Dues for the Dead

The Catacombs
After handing the Guild thieves over to Doomguide Glandon, the heroes tramped up the Mount in search of their druid companion. They found him meditating at the peak. After explaining what they are up to, Keo agreed to follow them back down the hill and into the depths of the catacombs.

Continuing on from where they’d left off, the group came to a room where skeletons were entombed in plaster in the ceiling. Several of them animated as the heroes entered, dropping down to attack. Fortunately, they were easily dealt with.

Next the group came to a room full of skulls on shelves. Cassyt explained that one could ask the skulls questions and get some answers, although the answers were usually confusing and contradictory. Mara decided to ask about her ancestor, Skie Sigursdottir, the Storm Maiden of Ruathym. From the jumbled mess of answers, she learned that her ancestor was indeed buried somewhere in the necropolis, and that her tomb may have been constructed to look like an old-style barrow mound.

To one side of the talking skull room was the tomb of Sedrair, who Cassyt explained had been an eccentric, wealthy merchant who’d loved her gold very much. Inside, they found Sedrair’s mummified remains sitting on a throne with a gold crown seemingly hovering above her head. Flint cast detect magic and discovered that the crown was warded with abjuration magic. He warned Erevan not to touch anything.

Next up was a room in which several criminals and their victims had been interred in macabre tableaux, in which the victims were depicted getting revenge on their killers. Cassyt explained that it had been a bizarre burial “fad” some time in the city’s past that had fortunately been short-lived. They hurried through this room and finally arrived at the entrance to the necropolis. Just off to the right was a side passage that Cassyt said led to an empty area, but the group insisted on checking it out just to be sure. No one likes having enemies they’ve missed coming up from behind them, after all.

After Flint turned Erevan invisible, the elf crept down the passage and into a room containing several zombies that were just standing around. At the far end of the room, a single kobold was dozing in a chair partially obscured by a barrel. Sneaking past the kobold and the zombies, the elf rogue discovered that the rooms beyond were far from empty! In one room stood some more zombies, and in the next, yet more zombies, plus some more kobolds, as well as a heavily armored woman with a greatsword, who was talking to a Red Wizard of Thay, of all people!

After sneaking back out to the others, Erevan reported on his findings. Cassyt was sure that the Red Wizard was the one responsible for the undead in the catacombs. The heroes devised a plan that began with Erevan taking out the sleeping kobold with a well-placed arrow.

Unfortunately, the rest of the plan flew out the window when Cassyt, overcome with a righteous rage, charged headlong down the passage, calling on Kelemvor to send the undead abominations back to their graves. Much to her chagrin, Kelemvor seemed unimpressed with his servant’s rash behaviour, and her attempt to turn the undead failed, leaving Cassyt at the mercy of four zombies. She quickly succumbed to their meaty fists, requiring Keo to break off his own attack so he could heal her and drag her to safety.

Flint and Mara held the line while Erevan’s head injury began plaguing him again. Keo came to the rescue by turning into a bear and shoving past Erevan, who took a few feeble swipes at his companion in his confusion. He then started to wander back out of the room, hugging the wall as he went along, before his head finally cleared again.

Once the zombies were dealt with, the heroes moved on to the next room, dispatching the other zombies and kobolds with ease. At the same time, the Red Wizard busily gathered up his things before teleporting away using a magic circle inscribed in blood on the floor. The Thayan knight then reappeared (having been lurking invisibly in the room) and attacked Keo, while a dragonclaw cultist came around the next corner and joined the attack! It would appear that the Red Wizard was in league with the Cult of the Dragon!

The Thayan knight fought valiantly, but she was clearly outnumbered. In an effort to keep the group from taking her alive, she quickly downed a vial of poison that killed her instantly. Shrugging, the heroes set about looting the rooms. They found some valuable goods but little in the way of information that would explain what the Red Wizard had been doing. Flint made sure to disrupt the magic circle before they departed, though.

Skie’s Tomb
After a short rest, the heroes ventured into the necropolis in search of Skie’s tomb. It took them some time but eventually they came across a barrow mound-like tomb with a set of stone doors bearing Mara’s ancestor’s name on the lintel above. The doors had no obvious locks or handles, just a bronze plaque bolted to the left door. Engraved into the plaque was the following inscription:

One tooth to bite,
’tis the forest’s foe
One tooth to fight,
as all Illuskans know

Mara quickly surmised that the answer was “an axe”, and sure enough, as she spoke the word aloud, the doors swung open with a thunderous rumble. Almost immediately, a strong, continuous wind roiled out from within the tomb. Mara hefted her axe and pressed forward, pushing her way down a 60-foot-long corridor lined with stacked stones. The others tried several times to get down the corridor, only to be blown back to the entrance by the force of the wind. It seemed like maybe Mara was meant to go on alone.

At the end of the corridor was a large chamber with three alcoves. In the center squatted a stone sarcophagus. In the alcove directly across from the entrance stood a life-size statue of a human woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Mara herself! The statue was posed in such a way that it appeared like it ought to have been holding something in its hands. Upon closer inspection, there was even a slot in the hands into which something could be inserted. Something very much like Mara’s axe, in fact.

In an alcove to the left of the sarcophagus, there stood an altar shaped like a crashing wave, atop which lay an old filleting knife. Mara recognized this as a shrine to Umberlee, the evil goddess of the sea, a deity revered by many in Baldur’s Gate as a sort of mother figure. In opposite alcove stood an altar shaped like a billowing cloud, on top of which lay an old scrimshaw hunting horn. Mara wasn’t sure to whom that shrine was dedicated.

By this time, Keo had managed to force his way up the windy corridor, although the others had given up and remained outside.

Unsure of how to proceed, Mara consulted her father’s notes, which hinted at some tests involving the mind, body, and spirit. She presumed that the riddle on the door had been the test of the mind, while the strong wind in the corridor may have been the test of the body. That meant that the items on the altars must have something to do with the final test – that of the spirit.

As Mara walked over to Umberlee’s altar, a soft voice whispered, “Blood of my blood …” Instinctively, Mara picked up the knife and cut herself with it, letting a drop of her blood fall onto the altar. Nothing appeared to happen, but this did not deter her. Moving over to the cloudy altar, she heard the voice whisper again: “Breath of my breath …” Picking up the horn, she blew into it.

Still nothing happened. But then Mara felt a strange urge to place her axe into the hands of her ancestor’s statue. Unsurprisingly, it fit into the slots as perfectly as if it belonged there. Keo, marveling at the similarity between Mara and her ancestor, asked if she’d ever lived before. Mara drily replied that she didn’t think so.

At that point, a ghostly blue light rose up out of the sarcophagus and blossomed into the outline of a fierce-looking warrior woman. She greeted Mara like an old friend and congratulated her on passing the tests. Identifying herself as Skie Sigursdottir, the spirit informed Mara that she (Mara) had an important role to play in future events and that she (Skie) wished to help her fulfil that destiny. The spirit proceeded to float over to the statue and disappeared into the axe, which then glowed faintly for a moment. Mara could hear her ancestor’s voice instructing her to take the axe back again. When Mara withdrew it from the statue’s hands, a powerful wind swirled around her momentarily. Or at least, it felt like it to her, as Keo didn’t appear to notice anything. Perhaps it was just her imagination?

And thus Stormwind‘s power was renewed*, ready to help fulfil its wielder’s destiny once again!

Epilogue
Back on the surface, Doomguide Glandon paid the heroes 100 gp for their services in clearing out the undead and driving off the Red Wizard. Upon hearing their praise for Cassyt (conveniently not mentioning her little blunder with the zombies), Glandon was impressed enough to induct her into the order as a full priest, for which she was most grateful!

 

*Stormwind is a magical axe that requires attunement by a direct descendant of Skie Sigursdottir. The axe has the Guardian minor property, the Confident quirk, and the Thrown property. It also has 3 charges that the wielder can use to cast thunderous smite. It regains 1d3 spent charges each day at dawn. It also has the capacity to grow in power as its wielder does.