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 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 soirée.

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.