The Scroll Thief

Before leaving the sewers, the group took a quick look at the contents of the discarded backpack. Along with some coins and the like, they found a note and a map with Ellison’s name on them. He’d been ordered to steal the books and deliver them to someone named “Rythnax” in a swampy area near the mouth of the Chionthar.

The group agreed that they could afford to slow down a bit and headed back into the city. Erevan sought out the bathhouse for a quick cleansing while the others tracked down Keo. After seeing the note and map, Keo responded that his new allies in the Emerald Enclave had made him aware that there was a young black dragon upsetting the natural balance of the nearby swamp. He knew that they’d be keen to have the dragon dealt with and so was quite happy to help his comrades track down the book thief.

After Erevan was satisfied with his state of cleanliness, the heroes gathered their things and then got in touch with their faction contacts to acquire some mounts to take them out of the city and along the southern banks of the river more quickly. As a local, Mara knew the small swampy area – which lay between the river and the edge of the Cloak Wood – was only a half-day’s ride away. They were able to get there before the sun set.

The Swamp
As the party peered into the gloomy swamp from its perimeter, they spied a small rocky hill on an island less than two hundred feet away. Someone was huddled by a small campfire in front of the cave, with what looked to be a large black dog curled up at his feet. Erevan used his magic armor to disguise himself as a cultist and then asked Flint to cast invisibility on him. His ability to sneak up on the campsite was somewhat hampered due to having to wade through ankle-deep swamp water, though, and he soon discovered that the creature by the fire could sense his presence. Not only that, but it was not a dog … rather, it was a small black dragon! Standing up, the dragon stretched out its wings before informing its human companion that they had visitors.

The dragon called out for Erevan to show himself. After he did so, the elf quickly started making up a story about how Mondath’s group had sent him here to check up on things and make sure the delivery was going all right. Ellison and the dragon were at first confused as to how Mondath had known about the deal. Erevan could sense that he wasn’t convincing them … and, sure enough, the dragon announced that it was bored and spewed acid at the elf.

In response, Mara and Keo both went charging into the swamp, weapons at the ready, while Flint stayed out of the mire, casting catapult and giving the dragon a good hard whacking to distract it from finishing off Erevan. This worked like a charm, as the wyrmling roared in anger and leapt into the air, making a beeline for the dwarf. Ellison, meanwhile, indicated to Erevan that he did not wish to fight and slunk into the cave to hide.

As the dragon flew over Mara and Keo, they both took aim with their weapons but missed. Flint’s aim, however, was true, and he slew the dragon with a second casting of catapult! Keo went to have a look at the dead dragon, finding a satchel strapped to its chest that contained the missing pages from the stolen books, wrapped in watertight waxed paper. He also cut off the dragon’s head to take it back to town as proof that the job had been done.

As the others approached, Erevan drank a healing potion before calling out to Ellison to give himself up. The thief reluctantly complied, pleading with the adventurers not to hurt him. He promised that if they would just let him go, they’d never see him again. He wanted nothing more to do with the Cult of the Dragon. The heroes were not so sure and insisted that he let them tie him up. They then pumped him for information.

As it happened, he’d been hired by the cult to help them find the whereabouts of one Xandria Welltran, a human woman who may have actually been a polymorphed green dragon. She lived during the time of Minsc the beloved ranger, and so Ellison had stolen the biography because it contained clues as to where she’d been buried (in a crypt in the cemetery in Tumbledown, as it just so happened). He’d stolen the book of magic because he’d seen it in Aya’s office while training with her and thought it might have some useful information about polymorphing and the like. As for the peerage book, he’d taken that for purely personal reasons – he’d hoped it would prove that the Berengers were a Baldurian patriar family, but he was to have no such luck in that event.

Ellison insisted he knew nothing more than that. He didn’t know why the cult wanted this information, though he was able to tell them that his cult contact was none other than Soares, the elf who’d ambushed the party the day before.

When Ellison had finished his tale, the heroes had a look at the dragon’s small hoard. Mara found a nice suit of splint armor that could be adjusted to fit her nicely. They took some of the coins and other knick-knacks, then settled down for the night.

Late into the night, Ellison slipped free of his bonds and tried to escape. He hadn’t counted on the fact that Erevan, being an elf, didn’t sleep. The heroes soon wrestled him back into his bonds and then, in the morning, dragged him back to town, where they turned him over to Mara’s aunt, Vigilar Allayn Bormul.

Before returning the recovered pages to the library, Erevan and Flint made sure to make copies to pass on to their Harper contacts. And Mara went and had a quiet word with a Lords’ Alliance agent about Lamarck’s false claim to noble status, despite the others wanting to accept his bribe to keep it a secret.

Xandria’s Crypt
After getting a good night’s rest, the heroes trudged back out to Tumbledown, where they sought out Cassyt and asked her to help them locate the crypt of Xandria Welltran. It turned out to be easy enough to find, being a freestanding mausoleum on the surface rather than down in the catacombs. Upon entering, they found it to be a well-appointed crypt with a stone sarcophagus in the middle and a number of colorful paintings depicting Xandria in various locales on the walls.

The heroes pried open the lid and, sure enough, Flint was able to tell almost immediately that the bones inside looked like they’d once belonged to a dragon! What’s more, some of the bones appeared to be missing. Mixed in with the bones were five tiny gems, one for each color of chromatic dragon.

Just then, the outer doors swung shut with a boom and a hissing sound could be heard as a poisonous gas began filling the room. Seeing that the doors would not be easily opened from the inside, they looked around for some other exit. There were scrape marks on the floor around the sarcophagus, suggesting it could be moved, but none of them were able to do so using brute force.

Eventually, the heroes figured out that they could insert the colored gems into little indentations in certain paintings on the wall. The color of dragon that each gem represented had to match something in the picture – so the white gem went in the snowy mountain, while the blue gem went in the lightning storm, and so on. Once the last gem was correctly inserted into the wall, the sarcophagus slid away, revealing a dark staircase. The outer doors also opened, revealing a bewildered-looking Cassyt, who’d been left outside. She remained there as the group descended the stairs.

At the bottom, the group found themselves in a spiralling corridor that led to what appeared to be a throne room. There were three skeletons with swords and dragon-like heads standing guard, but they did nothing as the heroes approached the throne and poked around. Underneath the throne, Erevan found a hidden compartment protected by a poisoned needle, the disabling of which proved to be child’s play for him. Inside the compartment, he found a spell scroll and a gem.

Further along the spiraling corridor, the group came to an old dusty laboratory. After glancing over the books and the alembics and such, they concluded that the laboratory had been used by some kind of necromancer, one who appeared to have been interested in dracoliches! There was a blue bottle with a note about finishing some kind of experiment. The note’s writer warned the reader not to drink the potion. Erevan toysedaround with taking the potion with him, but when Flint revealed that everything in the room was under some kind of magical warding spell, the elf put the bottle back on the table and the group left.

The corridor ended at a chamber containing an old teleportation circle, along with what appeared to be quite the stash of gold coins in an alcove in the south wall. There were also some softly-glowing magic glyphs on the walls, as well as four dead bodies stitched together from various humanoid and draconic parts.

As Flint went to investigate the teleportation circle, the others attended to the bodies. As soon as Flint began unravelling the circle’s magic, however, the glyphs flared up and the bodies rose to attack! They were no match for these seasoned warriors, however, and were all soon lying inert on the ground again. As each one fell, one of the glyphs on the walls went dark as well.

Erevan used mage hand to retrieve one of the coins from the alcove. It turned out to be painted wood. He used his mage hand to sift through the pile to see if there was anything else there, especially because Flint’s detect magic spell was picking something up from that room. When he found nothing, Keo and Flint went into the room and only to find that they could’t get out again because some sort of invisible wall of force had sprung up behind them. Luckily, Flint knew he could get rid of the wall with a magic missile, so they weren’t trapped there for long.

The group returned to the surface and told Cassyt about what they’d found: an old necromancer’s lab, guarded by some minor undead creatures, possibly connected to the old Cult of the Dragon, back when they were more interested in undead dragons than living ones.

Having reached the end of that thread, the heroes ventured back to the Upper City to continue their wait for the contingent of cultists from the Greenfields to arrive with their stolen loot.

The Scroll Thief

Interlude: Midsummer
On the morning of Midsummer, Flint announced that he had something important to share with the rest of the group: namely, that he had been having a recurring dream for several months now. Each time, he dreamt that the world was destroyed by waves of destructive energy, followed by ten sinister eyes glaring at him from amidst the ashes. As a dragon scholar, he found it highly suspicious that the energy emitted by each of the five different kinds of chromatic dragons – acid, ice, fire, lightning, and poison – were all present in his dream. He had hoped to find some answers in Greenest, and while he certainly had picked up on some clues, the dreams had continued unabated, sometimes even becoming more specific – for instance, he dreamt of Berdusk being destroyed as they’d sailed down the river towards Scornubel.

The others thanked the normally taciturn dwarf for sharing something so personal, and Erevan added that he’d experienced a similar vision while praying at the shrine to the Seldarine in the barrow he’d explored in his vision quest. The group concluded that they were on the right path and should continue to see where it might lead.

With such somber thoughts on their minds, they sallied forth to partake of the festivities in the Upper City. As dusk fell, and those who didn’t belong were ejected by the Watch, the Wide was transformed into patriar party central. Unfortunately, this being Baldur’s Gate, ominous clouds loomed overhead and, soon enough, rain began to fall. While many revelers descended into the Undercellar to continue their fun, Coran the elf invite a select number of lucky folks back to his place for a more private soirĂ©e.

Mara’s brother, Faldorn, introduced her to Grand Duke Ulder Ravengard, Marshal of the Flaming Fist. He informed her that he’d had a letter from Ontharr Frume and was thus somewhat aware of Mara’s mission. He invited her to join his faction, the Lords’ Alliance. She accepted without hesitation, so the duke asked her to meet with him privately at his office in High Hall on the morrow.

Meanwhile, Coran introduced Erevan to a fellow moon elf named Edhelri Lewel. To his surprise, she turned out to be the beautiful but haughty merchant he’d “rescued” from the ettercap in his vision quest. She commented that Erevan seemed familiar somehow and wanted to know if they’d ever met before. Erevan replied that he didn’t think so. She went on to tell him that she was hauling exotic timbers from the jungles of Chult to Waterdeep, where she intended to sell them to the city’s master carpenters and cabinetmakers, who would turn the timber into exquisite furniture. She also mentioned that she was looking to hire another guard for the trip, if Erevan knew of anyone who might be interested …

Finally, Flint met two gold dwarves from far away lands. One was an older dwarf with greying hair and beard, a merchant by the name of Lai Angesstun. He was hauling Amnian oils and perfumes up to Waterdeep, where he would sell them at great profit to the city’s dandies. The other gold dwarf was Lai’s bodyguard, Eldgar Agetul – whom Erevan later realized was the third and final “rescuee” from his vision quest.

After talking it over with his companions, Erevan came to the conclusion that the Seldarine had given him a big clue: the fact that they’d now met all three people from his vision quest, and the fact that they were all going to be heading to Waterdeep via the caravan route (as opposed to going by sea), meant that the heroes should be going that way too.

The next day, Mara gent to see the grand duke. Ravengard informed her that he’d like her to serve as the Alliance’s eyes and ears on the road, keeping them up to date on the cult’s movements. He wished he could offer more help, but his hands were tied – unless a clear threat to the city could be identified, there was only so much he could do. Mara was nevertheless quite eager to join up and was rather excited when she received her faction signet ring.

SIDE QUEST:
THE SCROLL THIEF

Another day passed, and there was still no news of the cult’s wagon train. Mara’s aunt, Vigilar Allayn Bormul of the City Watch, came to the group with a favor. Several books had gone missing around the city, and she hadn’t got the time or the resources to look into something as seemingly petty as that herself. Mara was happy to help out, so the group headed off to Mantor’s Library to speak with the Master Scribe, Cassra Brandywine, who had reported the thefts.

Mantor’s Library
The group found Cassra, a young halfling woman, all covered in blue ink and partially buried in an office overflowing with books and papers. She was grateful that they had come and promptly brought them up to speed: three thefts of rare books had taken place in Baldur’s Gate over the past few days.

The first book was stolen from a wizard who runs a tutoring service just down the road. That book was entitled The Weave: A Practical Observation on Impractical Occurrences. It had been stolen four days ago.

The second book was part of a three-volume biography of Minsc, the beloved ranger, that had been in the possession of a retired adventurer named Marten Foss, whose training ground could be found in Blackgate. That book had been stolen two days ago.

The third book, The Lords and Lineages of Baldur’s Gate, had been stolen just the night before, from the shop of Agin Lamarck, a patriar historian specializing in genealogies and heraldry. Cassra had no idea what the three books had in common or even whether they were all stolen by the same person, but she was nevertheless quite sure that the robberies were somehow connected.

Aya Glenmiir
The group decided to visit to the wizard’s shop first, as it was just down the road. The wizard, Aya Glenmiir, was a half-elf who, as Mara knew, tutored spoiled patriar kids in the basics of arcane spellcasting in order to pay the bills. She much prefered to do arcane research, however, and to that end, had a large number of books on semi-permanent loan from Mantor’s Library. She was not surprised to see the group, quipping that Master Opanrael (the head of Mantor’s Library) clearly didn’t trust her.

Aya showed them the glass case in which she’d stored The Weave, and Flint almost immediately noticed that someone who obviously knew what they were doing had disabled the magical wards traced around the case. While asking the usual investigatory questions, the group got the sense that Aya wasn’t telling them everything. They eventually persuaded her to reveal that the thief had also stolen a magical horn of blasting and several spell scrolls from her office. There were no signs of a break-in, and the only other clue they could glean from the half-elf was that one of her former students, a human named Ellison, had recently gone to work for Mantor’s Library.

Marten Foss
Out in Blackgate, they found the one-armed Marten overseeing a sparring match in his training yard. Several young men were attempting to have a go at a fierce young woman, who handily held her own against the lot of them. Marten invited them in and related everything he knew: Minsc was something of a personal hero of his, and while Mantor’s Library actually had the other two volumes of the biography, he’d kept the middle volume – the one detailing Minsc’s heroics in Baldur’s Gate – for sentimental reasons. He hds no idea why anyone would want to steal it.

As the conversation continued, the group learned that the young woman in the yard was Marten’s daughter, Vera. Marten tried to convince Mara to have a go against her, but she turned him down, promising to come back another time. Erevan spotted a pendant bearing the mark of the Order of the Gauntlet hanging amidst some weapons on a rack and inquired about it – Marten revealed that it was his, and that he hoped to induct his daughter into the group once she was all trained up.

Agin Lamarck
When the group showed up at his office door, the handsome human noble, Agin Lamarck, sarcastically claimed to be very excited about being part of their investigation. He revealed that whoever had stolen the centuries-old book – one of only a few copies in the city – did so during the Midsummer revels. He claimed to have had it under lock and magical key, but Flint could find no evidence of any magical wards.

Agin blustered for a bit, and the group got the sense that he wasn’t telling them everything either. With great reluctance, Agin broke down and admitted that the book contained evidence that his family’s claim to the Lamarck name had been fabricated by one of his ancestors. He implored the adventurers not to tell anyone, even going so far as to offer them a bribe. Mara, knowing that nobles strongly disliked those who pretended to be their equals, filed the information away for later, figuring that her newfound faction, the Lords’ Alliance, would probably appreciate knowing.

Ambush
On the way back to Mantor’s Library, the group encountered an elf who claimed that the Guild had information that might help them in their quest. He tried to lure them down an alley, and while the group was extremely suspicious, they didn’t notice the elf’s accomplices – a group of halflings – lurking among the crates and detritus until it was too late. The elf revealed himself to be a member of the Cult of the Dragon, slashing at the adventurers with one of the cult’s trademark talon-like scimitars. The group proved to be too tough for their assailants, however, and the cultist literally flew up over the nearest building in order to escape, while the halflings vanished into in the crowd back on the main street.

In the alley, the adventurers came across a crumpled note addressed to “Soares”, telling him to get rid of the meddling adventurers so as not to have wasted time. It mentioned someone named “the Whisperer” and was signed by “B”. The adventurers wracked their brains as to who the “B” could be. Could it refer to Cassra, whose last name started with a “B”? The note was written in the same blue ink they’d seen all over her, after all.

Mantor’s Library reprise
The adventurers confronted Cassra with the note. She insisted that she hadn’t written it and even found some samples of her handwriting in order to prove it. She suggested they go see Master Opanrael, head of the library. The man was busy and was reluctant to see them without an appointment, but they were able to persuade him of their quest’s urgency. After viewing the note, the master commented that two of his staff happened to be missing: a senior librarian named Garda Greenleaf and a newly-hired scribe named Ellison Berenger.

Recognizing the second name, the adventurers insisted that they speak with Ellison immediately. Master Opanrael suggested they could look in the basement archives, where Ellison was meant to be working. Cassra escorted them down. Not knowing precisely where to look in the vast subterranean vault, it took the group an hour to locate anything of note. In this case, it was the dead body of Garda Greenleaf, whom they found hunched over in a puddle of his own blood. As Cassra retched in a corner, the adventurers leaned in for a closer look. It appeared that someone had clubbed him on the head. It also appeared that some of the missing books were right there on the desk – namely, The Weave and the missing volume of Minsc’s biography … except they’d both had pages cut out!

Just then, a tremendous blast of noise rocked the archives, causing the books and shelves to tumble over. The adventurers managed to avoid getting hurt but Cassra’s arm was broken. She stumbled away to seek medical attention, leaving the heroes to explore the mess that was the archives on their own. They soon discovered a hole in the far wall, but before they could get a closer look, the ghost of a previous librarian appeared and began sucking the life out of Erevan! Flint and Mara managed to convince it to stop attacking them, as they meant it no harm and were in fact looking for the person who had damaged the library. Mollified, it pointed through the hole in the wall. After pouring a potion down Erevan’s throat, they climbed through the hole into a small room partitioned off from the library basement. It contained numerous odds and ends, as well as a fancy fold-out chest emblazoned with the sigil of Ramazith, the sailor-turned-wizard who’d built the landmark tower that still bears his name in the Upper City.

Erevan noticed a sprung poisoned needle in the chest’s lock. He also determined that the chest had a false bottom, under which he found a bone headband also bearing Ramazith’s symbol. Sensing magic, Flint pocketed it for later inspection. The group then turned their attention to a second hole that had been blasted through the wall behind the chest. It appeared to open out onto the sewers. Sighing, they climbed in and followed the obvious set of muddy footprints heading away from the library.

The Sewers
After following the footprints for what felt like ages, the group eventually came to a spillway where the sewer opened out onto the River Chionthar. Blocking their path were two singed carrion crawlers feasting on the scorched carcass of a third. A backpack lay nearby, its contents spilled. Flint surmised that someone had let off a fireball. The adventurers decided to attack the crawlers, which came scuttling over to attack them in return. One of them managed to paralyze Erevan and dragged him into the sewage. Fortunately, however, his companions were able to slay the crawlers quickly enough to be able to fish his body out of the stream before it floated away. Another healing potion was poured down the elf’s throat, and Flint used prestidigitation to clean him up a bit.

After catching their breath, the group resolved to continue the chase.