SKT - Follow The Cleric

Burning Bridges
Scenario 14

20 Marpenoth through 2 Uktar 1486

Titan and Korotir are “working” for the Snail in Waterdeep for roughly a tenday and change, posing as unemployed swords-for-hire. They get several jobs doing boring guard work for various elements in the city, using their positions to sneak into offices and extract samples of stationery for the Snail’s “paper expert.”

While in the city, Korotir turns in the Fire Giant’s ear for the bounty it is worth, but is recognized as being part of the banned group. He is not evicted from Waterdeep but is warned against coming back. Doesn’t matter, got paid.

The work pays off, despite its mind-numbing nature: the Snail’s expert identifies the office which issued the edict against the party and the Snail can move into phase two of his plan: insinuating an agent into the offices. This phase cannot be helped by the presence of Korotir and Titan, and the two meet back up with the party in Daggerford after the rest of them have successfully raided their new Vulture mounts.

2 through 6 Uktar 1486

Since leaving the Temple of Air, the party has convinced their vulture mounts to trust them even without the benefit of the Air Acolyte robes, which are gratefully discarded. Lata informs the party that the best saddlemaker in all of Faerun lives in Goldenfields, and once the cultists have quit chasing them, they should go back and get geared up.

In Daggerford, after reconvening with Titan and Korotir and discussion with the Snail, the party decides to go back to Goldenfields (minus Willy, who, task for the Snail complete, is rewarded with his own desired information: his lost companions have been seen, and he is given the location).

On the flight back, somewhere in the Forlorn hills between Nightstone and Goldenfields while the party has settled for the day, Envar, Atarah and Korotir go hunting for vulture and people food. A pack of crag cats ambushes them, dropping down from above. Two of the cats are killed, and Korotir manages to knock the third unconscious, having determined to make a pet out of it. They drag all three bodies back to camp and Korotir asks Natalia to take a look at the unconscious one.

Natalia determines that the crag cat is female and a recent mother. Atarah and Korotir decide to go find the cubs; Envar declines, bloodied and thoroughly done with the whole situation. He feeds the vultures on the dead cats, saving their pelts. Korotir and Atarah track down the den and return with one month-old crag kitten. The mother proving untamable, Korotir settles on the kitten as his new pet, killing the mother and saving her pelt.

6 Uktar 1486

They end up running into Naxene first, and ask her to identify the Rod they’d picked up from the Giant, as well as does she have any diamonds they can buy? For Natalia’s spell components. Naxene doesn’t have any but she does know someone who might… Several hours later, they’ve somehow canvassed most of the town and come up with two suitable diamonds for Natalia (properly paid for, of course. The rod is identified as a Rod of Vonindod, which can locate objects within a thousand feet or locate adamantine artifacts within several miles, a number of times a day.

Envar runs into some Emerald Enclave elves, who invite him back to a celebration of the elvish god Corellon… he stays with them for almost the entirety of the time the party spends in Goldenfields, returning with a deep blue star-studded cloak and new magic.

They do end up finding Orthovir Margaster, the saddlemaker, who disparages the quality of the saddles the vultures came with and promises them better ones… for 80gp each… they need ten of them. Orthovir proposes a discount: deliver an order of completed saddles to Noanar’s Hold, along with his agent Nik and he’ll take 200gp off the final price. The party agrees after some hasty conferencing with the Snail, since he had told Atarah about the drop point in Noanar’s Hold and she doesn’t want to wreck his investigation there. Orthovir is a Waterdhavian noble as well, and Natalia recognizes him from many years ago.

The party has two tendays to wait in Goldenfields while the saddles are completed. They acquire, through barter and coin, fur-lined leather flying gear, including goggles. A set is left in Goldenfields when they leave, along with an extra Vulture, for Tranled whenever the Snail is finished with him.

Korotir spends his time acting as the Captain of the Guard, the position he’d claimed from Strog after the fatal duel, and also learning from the druids the lore of animal training. His kitten grows rapidly, from chicken-size to mastiff-sized, and now bears the name QujmeH (Kushmay), despite Natalia’s suggestions of “snowball” and “marshmallow” and other white-themed names. It’s not even half-grown yet.

Atarah takes over an abandoned building from the giant attacks and works to refit it as a chapel to Summerheart (AN: fic forthcoming), and also visits the druids before they leave to Noanar’s Hold to get her hair dyed as an attempt at disguise.

27 Uktar 1486

The party, including Orthovir’s agent Nik, packs up and sets out for Noanar’s Hold, going north through the Dessarin River valley. They quickly settle into a flying and hunting routine. One night Voldrick tells stories of a great stone bridge spanning the valley, built by the dwarvish god Moradin. It’s become a site of pilgrimage and since they’ll be flying right over it, he’d like to stop and see it. The party agrees.

30 Uktar 1486

They reach Stone Bridge. It is impressive, being a single-arch bridge two miles long across the river and valley, fifteen feet wide and several hundred feet high. While Voldrick prays and readies himself spiritually for the walk across, Natalia also prays to her watery god. Korotir and Atarah spar, learning to fight around Kushme. Titan makes disparaging comments, probably, and Envar practices the flute.

As they start across the bridge, Korotir and Nik decide to race. Nik, being a monk, leaves Korotir in the dust fairly quickly. Only to come running back just as fast, yelling “Tall man!”

There’s a fire giant and two hellhounds quickly approaching Korotir – who is far ahead of the rest of the group, due to the race – at the top of the bridge.

Korotir stands his ground against the giant’s chain-whip, attacks one of the hellhounds and manages to shove it off the bridge. The rest of the group runs to bolster Korotir, casting shield of faith on themselves. Voldrick and Titan are quickly left behind (shorter legs!). Atarah whistles for her vulture but fumbles the first attempt to swing on while running.

The other hellhound spews firey breath at Korotir, the giant swings his great sword – and Korotir crumples to the ground.

Envar is running as fast as he can and Atarah manages to get onto her vulture. Nik makes it back to attack the other Hellhound, who snaps at him but misses. The giant also attacks Nik, distracted by this… small one… and does not finish off Korotir.

Atarah leaps off her vulture once it is in range, landing with blindingly bright sword point-first into the giant’s clavicle above the protection of its plate mail. She hangs on.

Envar looses a shot as he runs, Nik hits the hellhound and frightens it away with his terrifying monkliness. Envar finally gets to Korotir and spares the dying, only to be flicked off the bridge by the flat of the giant’s sword to fall several hundred feet to the river below. He calls Atarah’s circling vulture but doesn’t manage to get on it in time.

Korotir gets to his feet, woozy but alive.

Atarah and Nik get in a hit each that the Giant shrugs off before staring, amazed, at Korotir. Most things he smashes to the ground do not get back up. He hits Korotir, who – blocks, with shield and Thunderblade. The blade snaps, its magic melting into the shield. The giant staggers back, shaken, and Korotir smashes him with his shield to the sound of thunder. The giant falls.

Natalia calls up the waters, trying to save Envar, but he hits too fast. She calls her own vulture to get down to him quickly, but doesn’t get a good grip. Natalia and the vulture hit the water hard. She heals Envar from afar, bringing him back to consciousness, and the two start swimming to shore. Natalia’s vulture limps its way back, injured, and Atarah gets back on her bird, flying less panicked to get down and help tow the two in the water.

Voldrick and Titan finally catch up in time to not be able to help, aside from Voldrick healing those in need.

The giant falls from the bridge and washes downstream, where his corpse is picked over for loot and then offered to the vultures. Titan takes several vials of burning giant blood. The party camps on shore beside the bridge for the night, thoroughly bedraggled.

View
What the Left Hand Does...
While Tranlid was away he made a friend.

A windowless room with a musty smell and oppressive yet diminutive size. In its middle lies a desk with mounds of parchments and ledgers fill and nearly overburdening the desk and the rooms sole occupant. Tranled sits hunched over a particularly convoluted ledger making notes as he untangles the unnecessarily complex accounting systems put into place.

“500 gold pieces for toilet paper? Well least someone is having more shit than me.” Tranled snorts to himself and looks up to see that there is no one to laugh at his good material. He rocks back in the chair and stretches out to the chorus of small pops from joints and a prolonged sigh from his lungs. He rubs his eyes with the palms of his hands then looks at the mountain of parchment in front of him. He considers what brought him so low and remembers his encounter with Shalvus Martholo. The so-called Zhentarim agent of Goldenfields. The Snail still will not let him talk about why he self-promoted Martholo to death.

Tranled breathes in deeply taking in the musky, smoky, after sex smell of the room and rocks back to the table and his shit paper investigation. One of the clerks that bring the unending supply of parchment work told Tranled that this room used to be one of the ‘entertainment rooms’ and had been emptied out especially for Tranled.

He feels the footfalls as well as hearing them. The steady booted steps of one in armour. With the light from under the door changing to the curt knocking, he had gathered his wand loosely in his hand. When you cook the books for the Zhentarim sometimes people get burned. Tranled calls out “Enter.” in a monotone. The door opens even before the second syllable has ended. Tranled calculated that if his visitor meant him violence he was in deep trouble.

Filling the doorway was a Tiefling in plate armour. The sheen of the armour was that of silver but gave an iridescent purple as the light caught its edges. The orle of a shield protruded behind with a épée hung from a belt and a rod of obvious magical power in a short sheath on the hip. When Tranled’s eyes rose to meet their silver counterparts in his unexpected guest he suddenly realised that this armoured interloper was female. She stared down at him and Tranled recognised the look of someone reevaluating the terms of a contract. Whether that was in his favour or not he was bound to find out.

“I would offer you a seat, however, I have none to offer. Although I dare say you might want to stand,” offered Tranled.

“The Snail said that you were interested in the Left Hand and that you used more words than you needed to.” She said in a clipped tone that made every syllable sound as though it had a wall built around it. Tranled rose at the name and asked her to come in and close the door.

“Yes and I want them and all that associates with them dead,” he said with nearly contained vitriol.

“Then I think we can work together as I have heard of a cell operating in the village of Peenbrook two days south of Daggerford,” she tempted.

“Now before we go off and slay the anarchists may I know who my most charming travelling companion is?” questioned Tranled in icy tones.

“I am Promise, are you coming?” pressed Promise. She opened the door and left without waiting for an answer.

Tranled quickly scribbled a short missive to the Snail, snatching his satchel and cloak and trusting the letter in hands of the clerk as he left the Shining River Inn. “I am off to see about some account irregularities give the Snail this.” He did not give the clerk time to retort.

They stopped wordlessly at Promise’s lodgings while she collected her own pack and cloak. They continued in an equally untalkative manner down the south road out of Daggerford.

The journey to Peenbrook was uneventful and the only words crossed between the Tieflings were information relating to their task. Promise revealed what she knew about the activities of the Left Hand and Tranled informed her of the contract out on the Auraests of Waterdeep. She volunteered no information about herself and Tranled did the same.

Upon seeing Peenbrook for the first time it lay in a flattened river valley with thin pillars of white-grey smoke coming from forty or fifty huts, cabins and houses of different sizes. Only one stood with a second story and looked as though it was near the middle of the village. The village basked in the afternoon sunlight and the sound of linen snapping in a stiff breeze.

“Looks idyllic,” commented Tranled.

“People say that the cities and towns are where evil is found. Wolves don’t live in cities,” said Promise icily. Before entering the village proper Tranled cast prestidigitation on himself to remove the signs of rough travel. He offered the same for Promise, “I shall clean myself,” she said with a chilling tone.

Walking through the village Tranled and Promise receive worried looks from the villagers. They seem to be going about their usual business but give the Tieflings a wide berth. Tranled questions many of the villagers as he and Promise move from the outskirts of the town to the large building near its centre. The villagers know of the disappearances but blame the local wolves. When Promise questions them about the Left Hand they all claim not to have heard of the group. None of the villagers really want to look the Tieflings in the eyes.

The large building turns out to be an inn. The ground floor is walled in grey rough hewn stone with the top floor in the same light coloured wood as many of the surrounding houses. Smoke pours out of multiple chimneys. The normal hubbub of a popular tavern welcomes the pair as they enter. It slowly dissipates as Tranled and Promise move to the bar counter and begin to be noticed by the patrons. The innkeeper has his back turned as he pours a tankard of ale. He turns and slightly jumps at the sight of two Tieflings across his counter. With ingrained muscle memory from years behind the bar, he does not spill one drop from the tankard. Carefully he places the tankard on a tray and the young man who was waiting and trying his best not to notice Tranled and Promise takes the tray.

“Obard, after you drop those off, go to the kitchen and see when will the stew be ready.” says the innkeeper. The young man nods quickly and turns with haste. He turns to the pair and says, “Welcome to the Crossed Arrows. I am Hune. What will you be having?”

Tranled leans with one elbow on the counter, “An ale for me and for my companion….” Tranled looks to Promise and she orders, “Ale and answers.”

“Well I can provide the first with pleasure but the second, I am not sure if it will be to your liking.” Says Hune as he turns and reaches for two tankards and begins to fill them with a steady hand. The back of his head shines with reflecting light from the lanterns and fireplace. “People have already told me of the questions that you have been asking around the village.” Says Hune as he places two brimming tankards on the counter.

“Are you the alderman?” Intones Promise.

With a short barked laugh Hune says, “Ha, hells no. It’s just when folks get a run in with an unexpected Tiefling it gives them a scare. Bump into two and they have a desperate thirst. People have a hard time forgetting that saying about Tieflings. One’s a curiosity, two’s a conspiracy….”

“And three is a curse.” Finishes Promise with a tone that implies that she has heard the proverb too many times.

“Right”, smiles Hune opening his arms, “people can be a bit… prejudiced with their thinking.”

“Well, aren’t we lucky to meet a free and open-minded spirit to answer our questions.” Smiled Tranled.

“Since you already know our questions let’s get to the answers.” Probed Tranled then sipping the ale.

Hune sighs and begins to gather empty tankards from the counter and passes them through a hatch at the back of the bar. “The Crossed Arrows used to be a hunting lodge popular with minor nobles from Daggerford and further. Deer were plentiful in the forests around Peenbrook and my father built this impressive inn off the coin of the nobles spending the summers and sometimes winters hunting. It was good times for all in the village. Most of the nobles were good shots but not hunters. They brought in pregnant doe, fawns or bucks with barely four points on them. We were blinded by the coin and instead of chastising them as I would a local, congratulated them on a fine hunt. We did not listen to the druid and his warnings about the deer population. We thought it would last forever,” heaved Hune as though he had a stone weight on his chest.

“What has this to with missing people?” Pressed Promise. Hune looked up and replied, “The wolves used to hunt the deer. Now that they are all but gone they hunt the sheep and the odd unfortunate that finds themselves out after dark.The most tragic was the Farlins girl. She was in love and had arranged to meet a boy at night. He raised the alarm when dawn came and she never arrived. The boy still comes into the inn and drinks the grief away on occasion.”

“Well then what of our second question?” leant in Tranled.

“The backhand or dead hand?” quizzed Hune.

“Left Hand.” Said Promise in a tone that made Tranled flinch. Hune paused for a moment and then collecting himself by starting to wipe at unseen spills on the countertop and not making eye contact with either of the Tieflings.

“Sounds like some of them secret societies that are so popular in the big towns. The noble types would try to impress us small town folk with tales of their secret meetings and handshakes and rubbish. Sounds like rich people that have time to waste on nonsense.” Then stopping and looking steadily in Promise’s silver eyes, “Times here don’t allow for playing silly buggers in secret shenanigans.”

The young man named Obard calls to Hune from the hatch that the stew is ready. A smile comes over Hune and his seriousness disappears. “Now can I interest you in something to eat?” he slaps his hands together as to put a full stop on the previous lines of conversation.

“What meat is in the stew?” Asked Tranled.

“Ha!” Barked Hune, “Veg. We have no meat.”

Promise and Tranled take their bowls to a secluded table and the locals gave them their space. Tranled suggests that they stay at the inn and then make their way back to Daggerford. Promise agrees about staying at the inn but she wants to question more locals in the morning. Tranled relents and goes to Hune to book rooms for the night.

“One night or two?” He asks.

“One for the moment. We will decide tomorrow. Could you give us directions to the Farlin’s house in the morning?” Asks Tranled.

“It’s a farm and a fair bit off normal tracks. I’ll get Obard to lead you there for a small fee.”

Tranled goes back to the table with two more tankards. They drink wordlessly. Promise is the first to finish. She tells Tranled that she is going to bed. Tranled has one more and makes his own way to his room. He falls into a deep, half drunk sleep.

Hands on him, pulling, hushed whispers. Tranled tries to reach out but his hands are bound. He begins to kick but his legs are similarly bound. He shouts and can feel the air leave his lungs, however, no sound leaves him.

“Quick! It won’t last forever.” Hisses a shadow by his head. Tranled’s usual excellent vision is befuddled and he can only see shapes and shades of darkness. Two, three? He is bound and tries to struggle. A blunt pain in his stomach warns him.

“Move again and I’ll go for something more sensitive.” Threatens the shadow. They bundle him into the hallway. Tranled knows he has to time this perfectly. He thrashes violently just as they pass Promise’s door. One of the shadows trips and falls onto it. A blunt pain blossoms in his groin, turning into a ringing throb of unpleasantness. Tranled jackknifes in pain. The second pain on his side. Then the sound of a door opening. Tranled hears the intake of breath from the shadows as a welling darkness sweeps over him. There are sicking, sticky sounds of a sword being unsheathed from flesh. Not long lived yelps come from the shadows as they are clipped like dead flowers from a bush.

Promise cuts the bindings and props Tranled up against the wall. He tries to speak but only the ghost of a whisper comes out. Blurred shapes now have outlines but no detail. He feels Promise take his head in her hands as she scrutinises him. She then leaves wordlessly and returns to the pop of an uncorked flask. With a single word, “drink” she brings the rim of the flask to Tranled’s lips. He quaffs the solution and feels a brightening sensation come from his stomach. He nearly immediately starts to see more clearly and can start to speak.

“Are they dead?” he questions with a croke. Promise points with her now crimson épée at two figures slumped over each other with blood pooling underneath them. Tranled stands to move away from the ever approaching edge of the blood.

A door on the far end of the corridor open and Hune in his nightgown holding a lamp. He hisses a curse as he approaches the bodies on the floor. “By Tymora’s tits what happened?”

Promise answers for the still recovering Tranled. “He was poisoned and assaulted by these men.” Hune looks with disbelief at the bodies and Tranled. Promise strides over the fallen men and makes Hune backup defensively. Tranled can now see clearly and now notices that Promise is in a single long undershirt. Her bare feet slap slap in the puddles of blood and don’t seem to affect her. Promise presses Hune. “Who are these men?”

Hune splutters, “He,” pointing to the body slumped on top, “is Jarnis. Old Farlin’s boy. The other is a farm hand of theirs from out of the village, Olliner I think.”

“Get your son, he is going to lead us to the Farlin farm tonight.” Commands Promise.

“I will not have Obard be involved in this.” Says Hune shocked. “I will lead you there myself.”

Tranled attempts to take command of the situation. “Let us all get dressed and meet downstairs. “Then we will leave.”

A few minutes later Tranled meets Hune downstairs and is shown the jimmied lock on the kitchen door. “After the deer were gone and the wolves became bolder everyone started to get locks for their doors. This,” he points at the crude broken device, “…was all we could afford.”

The solid steps of Promise signal her arrival and readiness. “Lead us to Farlin.” She commands.

With a torch raised high Hune leads the party down a path in the forest.

“Does your son know of the bodies?” Asks Tranled.

“Yes, but I told him and his mother to stay in their rooms until I return. They have no need to deal with that amount of blood. I doubt they will listen to me,” huffs Hune as he walks.

After half an hour the forest clears and the dark shapes of buildings appear in the distance. Clouds dark and heavy with menace loom over the horizon.

“This is the Farlin farm,” puffs out Hune.

“We will deal with the rest from now. Go home to your family and get that lock repaired,” suggests Tranled.

Hune accepts the offer and before he turns to leave utters “Gods be with ya.”

Promise unsheathes her épée and equips her shield and starts to walk with measured steps towards the buildings. Tranled with his wand firmly in his left hand follows behind. As they draw closer to the buildings they appear lifeless until they pass the barn and a nearly inaudible chant can be heard coming from within.

Promise stealthily pries the doors of the barn apart and moves inside with Tranled following. The barn is in disarray with several dead sheep arranged in a circle, heads pointing towards the centre. Promise and Tranled inspect the sheep and discover that their throats have been slit. The chanting has become louder and is issuing from a trapdoor that has the remnants of the sheep blood flowing into it.

Promise kneels down to inspect the decent and motions wordlessly to Tranled to follow as she shoulders her shield and sheathes her épée. She descends gingerly and signals that it is safe to descend to Tranled. As he plants his boots on the floor he sees it is slick with blood. Funnels in the floor channel the blood down a shallow ramp. The chanting has become louder and nearly hypnotic as torch lights play in the distance of the tunnel. Tranled follows Promise as she is silhouetted against the light.

They both emerge into an eight-meter diameter, three meter high, hand hewn cavern. Blood has pooled in the middle and at the far end is a crude ring of bones, skin, sinew and rotting flesh. Four figures in rough flaxen hoods chant at the ring unaware of Promise or Tranled’s presence.

“WHICH FOUL MASTER DO YOU SERVE!” Booms Promise. Tranled ponders the same question as he sees the figures stiffen and turn.

As their darkened gaze fell upon Promise and Tranled it seemed as the temperature of the cavern dropped. The silence was broken by Promise unsheathing her épée and holding it loosely in her hand.

One of the outlying figures turns to the one closest to the foul circle, who has the rough approximation of a dark stone amulet around his neck. The amulet bearer commands, “Hold them back; I need time.”

Two of the cultists pull dull notched short swords and rush Promise. She batters one with her shield and parries the other with her épée but with two attackers she is defending and cannot strike out her own blows.

A third cultist draws out a small crossbow and levels it at Promise. Tranled backs up to get a better line of sight on the crossbow cultist, sights him with his wand and unleashes a purple shimmering force. A small cloud of smoke appears on the upper chest of the cultist and he is thrown bodily against the far wall.

The cultist begins to prop himself up on his elbows as blood starts to stream from his nose and ears. Tranled smiles at he can see that this will be a short battle.

Promise has used the distractive opportunity of Tranled’s blast to wing one of the cultists and batter him away so that she can bring her full fury on a single foe. She thrusts and connects with soft stomach and as she withdraws the blade an exhalation from the cultist. He doubles over and drops his sword. Promise with a backhand sweep cuts the cultists from mid chest through the collarbone. He slumps with a wet squelch in the blood soaked earth. Promise turns her attention to the now recovered but wide-eyed cultist whom she battered with her shield.

Tranled begins to take aim at the still prone crossbow wielder as an arm comes across his neck and a sharp and blossoming pain races from his lower back. Another set of arms grabs his left arm and tries to dislodge his wand. Tranled sees the Crossbow cultist recover and takes aim from his prone position. Tranled hears the twang of the loosed bolt and closes his eyes.

When he open his eyes again he is right behind Promise as purple cloud start to recede from around him. He wheels around in time to see the bolt sink itself into his unseen attacker.

Hune’s face is a mixture of disbelief and shock. He still holds his left arm as though he was choking a ghost with his right hand holding a blooded dagger. Obard is next to him with his own near comical expression and arms out straight as though he was holding onto an invisible rope.

Tranled puts his thumbs together and splays his fingers towards the father and son. A hell’s worth of fury fans out from his hands. The start of their screams was evaporated in the heat blast. Their proximity to the small tunnel’s mouth acted like the focus of vortex as the fan funnelled up the tunnel and they died where they stood.

Promise dispatched the remaining short sword cultist by bisecting one of his legs and then a quick thrust in his chest when he fell to the sticky ground.

Tranled returned his attention to the crossbow wielder and had no qualms in concaving his chest with a pinpoint blast to his sternum.

That left the amulet adorned cultist. As he turned the inscription on the amulet was glowing. Tranled could read it from where he stood and knew that Promise would also recognise the Infernal script. “Orcus worshiper.” Spat Tranled.

Tranled tried to vault over Promise as the cultist touched his amulet with his left hand and reached out towards the pair with his right. Promise snatched Tranled out of the air and drove him unceremoniously to the ground. She sunk to one knee and pulled her shield down to guard both herself and Tranled.

No sooner had she dug the base of her shield in the wet earth did storm of black swirling darkness surround them. From his low vantage, Tranled could only see the shield acting as the bow of a ship crashing into the blackest sea.

As suddenly as it had started the torrent disappeared. Tranled could see that Promise had paid for protecting him. As she lay on her side the left side of her face was a ruin with large weeping wounds where her raven locks curled. Her shield was all but useless with only the leather straps being recognisable.

The cultist was on his knees with both hands squelching through the bloodied mud. Tranled had lost his wand so drew his dagger and tried to remember if he had ever stabbed someone before. “First time for everything.” He fumed.

As he took his first sucking and smacking step the head of the cultist snapped up and his hand shot to the still glowing amulet. Tranled stopped. He felt his will leaving him and could not command his legs.

The cultist started to rise and pulled the hood back to reveal his face. The pact with Orcus had a high price. His eyes were sunken and rimmed with black. His skin looked like the overused blotting paper that Tranled used in his ledgers.

Those dark eyes looked deep into Tranled and sought a kinship.

With near blinding swiftness, Promise rose to her knees and threw her épée. The all steel arrow flew true and straight at the chest of the cultist and then as fast as it was loosened it stops just in front of the cultist.

His eyes turn from their interrogation of Tranled’s soul to bear with fury at Promise. She, in turn, unsheathes her rod and a blast propels the épée through the cultist. The resulting force pushes him to the back of the cavern and the épée pins him to the middle of the cadaver circle.

Tranled moves to help Promise to her feet. She put up one hand to warn him off and after a moment gets up with confidence. She walks with purpose towards the pinned cultist and Tranled joins her.

She lifts his head and the dark eyes are truly lifeless now. The amulet has been shattered and his blood is turning the flax cloak a vile violet.

“Is Orcus the patron of the Left Hand?” Muses Tranled as Promise puts a boot on the chest of the cultist and pulls out her épée. “I don’t know,” confesses Promise, “but it would make sense.”

As they walk back up the small tunnel they can hear the crackling of a blaze. From the bottom of the short shaft, they look up at what must be a vision of the nine hells. Both wrap their cloaks tightly around themselves and pull their hoods up. Walking through fire for a Tiefling is not pleasant but survivable. As the climb out of the trapdoor and the barn they see that the nearby farmhouse has also caught alight.

Everything is a roiling inferno. Tranled thinks of another farm in another place. The brooding clouds losing their own fury. He pulls down his hood to let the rain onto his face.

Promise cannot see his tears in the rain.

Epilogue:

Tranled arrives at the Shining River alone looking worse for wear. He is sent, without ceremony, into the office of the Snail.

“Hope you brought some of that shit paper with you. You are going to need it.”

View
Tasks set by the Snail
Tranled writes to the Snail

To the most Reglamentos Snail.

My report on the tasks you have set out for me.

1. Deliver local correspondences in Greater Daggerford area.
All letters were delivered in a timely manner. However, the smithy at Derval’s Bright Blade had some cutting remarks about the official Zhentarim Delivery Service (ZDS) livery. As you well know most Fulländning that I have ever supported the Moon Dance Yellow and Bittersweet Blue harlequin inspired jumpsuit replete with bell tassels on the cap that took you painstaking months to research and design. Be that as it may, I just feel that the general public may be too base to understand your momentous vision and I suggest a recall until further sample testing with the public.

2. Reevaluating the Zhentarim Important Customer/Guest Protocol (ZICGP)
After evaluating the Zhentarim Customer Satisfaction Survey and looking into current best practices in dealing with current, returning or future customer happiness management. I have concluded that due to no fault of your own your most Ofoofogia that the current protocol is underachieving compared to our competitors. Please see my marked notes in the relevant chapters and the attached addendums to the report.

3. Sourcing important supplies for the Shining River tavern.
I have found a supplier of indisputable repute for the teaspoons and serviettes. Arthur Price is famed for his silverware and comes highly recommended. He was reluctant at first, however, when I mentioned that he would be supplying the most Vakker Snail he bounded to the opportunity.

4. Copying spells and rituals from reclaimed grimoires in Zhentarim Approved Format (ZAF).
The large backlog of grimoires has been cleared. This was expedited by removing repeated tomes that had seemingly been lost by the same wizard over and over again. Whoever this Radagast is he does not have the most steely of memory as I counted 5 of his grimoires in the collection. All labelled ‘found on the forest path.’ The spells recorded within were mostly polymorphic and illusory magic but useful nonetheless.

Thus concludes my report on the tasks that you had most Xeyirxah had set me.

Faithfully yours

Tranled Agganor
ZEN 201506183
Most Diminutive Sub-representative of Zhentarim Diplomatic Relations: South Sword Coast.

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Wake Me Up When Marpenoth Ends
Scenario 13

15 Marpenoth 1486

The bodies of their enemies yield quite a bit of loot, which is summarily dumped into Envar’s Bag of Holding to be properly examined and divvied later. Among them is a thick staff – wand-sized to a giant but staff-sized to smallfolk like the party – made of metal, and a brass lantern studded with green gems. There’s also a sack of silver and a smaller sack of gold. Korotir retrieves his eyeball trophy and their proof of giant-slaying.

Down in the bottom of the pit, the party discovers the giant was not mining for gold, but unearthing an arched shape of pure platinum, studded with short triangular spikes. It is still deeply embedded and would be a lot of work to remove it. There is talk of “stargates,” whatever those are. The party will tell Snail about it and ask for a finder’s fee.

As they head back to Daggerford, they meet with Voldric Firehammer waiting outside the gates to the town. Seems he’s run into a deadend in Waterdeep – no one will work with him after he mentions he’s working with the party, and the ban he worked to get removed has been reinstated. The party suggests possibly the Snail can help get flying mounts, since he seems so well connected, but Voldrick is suspicious.

In the Shining River tavern, the Snail congratulates them on a job completed, and gives them their reward – a thousand gold pieces to be distributed as they choose. He asks for an introduction to their new friend, which is given.

“And what… do you… want?”

Voldrick explains his predicament. The Snail can’t help him get flying mounts, but he can help them figure out why the Lord’s Alliance in Waterdeep is being obstructive. It seems he has a friend who is… a paper enthusiast… who knows the paper Korotir and Titan’s contracts are on is the same kind as is used to issue their Ban from Waterdeep.

He can find the person, but he will need Titan and Korotir to pose for a job. Korotir is skeptical of leaving Natalia. The Snail has an answer for that: “Willy. You can… come down, now.”

Another halfling drops from the rafters, decked out in rogueish weaponry. He’ll be accompanying the party while Titan and Korotir are away. Titan challenges Willy to a duel to see who’s better. Willy flees. Titan scoffs, only to be scared when Willy shows up a few seconds later (“Boo!”), completely unnoticed. Titan agrees maybe Willy is as good as he is.

Natalia asks what the price of this help is. The Snail says there is no charge – he is proving his usefulness to the party and vice versa, so they will hear him out in the future.

Titan and Korotir agree to the mission, if reluctantly. The rest of the party, minus Tranled, who also has some business with the Snail to accomplish, discuss their options. Perhaps going back to the ex-cultist Druid they left in Goldenfields would be helpful? He did ride a giant Vulture, perhaps he knows where to get ahold of some flying mounts. As the only real lead, they pack up to head that way.

It’s roughly ten days from Daggerford to Goldenfields by way of the Trade Roads that go by Waterdeep, even with the horses the Snail lends them. Titan and Korotir travel with them part of the way. < not explicitly GM stated, assuming >

26 Marpenoth 1486

The party meets back up with Lata with some awkward re-introductions. Lata has been enjoying living with the druids and learning so much about how not to be a cultist. He does miss flying though, and has managed to learn where his Vulture went – back to the Howling Hatred temple in the Forlorn Hills. He’s pretty sure there’s multiple mounts there and is willing to guide and teach the party how to make friends with the vultures if they’ll help him. Deal!

Before the party leaves for the nearby hills, they let Orin know about his sister. He promises them an epic party when they return from their expedition.

It takes two days to cover the rough terrain into the Forlorn Hills and the old Temple of Air on a cliffside…

28 Marpenoth 1486

The Temple of Air is a repurposed old Dwarven city, now in ruins. Voldrick is aghast at the desecration of his peoples’ monuments. There’s some talk about how to get into Temple without arousing suspicion – they’ll send in Lata first, as a legit “cultist” to go get robes for the rest of them so they can pass as cultists. Willy will sneak along with him as backup. Voldrick asks Willy how good he is at deception and Willy convinces Voldrick he’s really a gnome. Voldrick believes him.

This, predictably, goes badly. Lata gets into a fight with the first group of cultists he runs into, who don’t believe he’s really a member, and the rest of the party rushes to his aid. Envar is once again the best with a bow, though Willy is also frighteningly competent.

They spot a couple of Kenku running deeper within the Temple to warn the rest of the cultists still living here. Lata remembers there are some Very Bad Things further in that they do not want to meet, and the party runs for it. If they can get around the step-pyramid in the middle before the alarm is raised, they’ll be able to escape on the vultures.

Willy and Voldrick fly on Willy’s magical Owl Figurine, Natalia waterbends away water in the moat and Atarah goes with her, Lata transforms into an octopus and swims the moat, and Envar dashes along the outside. The flying Owl attracts the attention of a Wyvern and Rider from the top of the pyramid, who flies down to the attack. The Owl is knocked back into a figurine, dumping Voldrick and Willy into the water. Lata rescues Voldrick from going over a waterfall, and Willy has a ring of Swimming, so he’s fine. The Wyvern turns its attention to Envar. Envar gets enough shots in to kill the rider, then dives into the water with the rest of the party before the Wyvern itself can return the favor.

They make it to the other side while the Wyvern is searching for them, having lost track in the water. There’s a pair of Kenku and a trio of cultists guarding the entrance to the Vulture aeries, but the party takes them out easily without damaging their cultist robes, which they need to gain the Vultures’ trust. Atarah drags a dead cultist with her into the Vultures’ graveyard aerie.

Lata casts Speak with Animals and explains they need the Vultures’ help to escape. There’s a big wake of them, easily enough to get mounts for the whole group, absent members included, and they all gather around to listen to Lata’s promises of ample food. Atarah cuts open the belly of the dead cultist and dumps the corpse on the ground in front of the Vultures, who commence to feeding. Willy offers them water, and the Vultures are now appeased enough to be saddled.

As they begin saddling though, there is an evil hiss from the aerie doors. The Wyvern has found them and tries to get through, but is slightly too large. Everyone gets saddled, except Voldrick, who simply hangs on for dear life as the Vultures take off – the whole kettle of them, ridden and not.

The wyvern chases them, but between Natalia’s Flee commands and Envar’s arrows, is swiftly discouraged. The party is free to fly wherever they want. It is three days flight’ to Daggerford, and only an hour or so to Goldenfields.

204feather.jpg

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Truth in the Dark
Scenario 12

< …bear with me, I was too busy roleplaying to take notes for half of this… >

9 Marpenoth 1486

It is a few hours walk outside Waterdeep to Atarah’s family estate – an small villa with a courtyard amongst vineyards, orchards, and kitchen gardens – a working farm. Atarah is on edge, but has reunited with her Sabretooth mount on the way. Only Aliza, the paladin from Nightstone, comes out to greet them. She says Atarah’s family has gone somewhere to be safe, and that Atarah would know how to contact them. Aliza and a few others have been hired on to watch the estate while the family is away.

Titan and Korotir take a walk through the grounds and the house to check for evidence that anything’s gone wrong, finding several portraits of Atarah as a kid with which to tease her with. She had pigtails.

After assuring themselves the villa is more-or-less secure, and so is Atarah’s family, the group heads out to a long-overdue meeting with the Snail in Daggerford. They double check with Voldrick Firehammer, who has not yet managed to acquire transportation and says he’ll find them when he’s ready to go.

It’s five days travel south to Daggerford.

14 Marpenoth 1486

The party arrives, late in the afternoon of the 14th.

< encounters Kella Darkhope and a smitten but unrepentant Xolkin outside the gates >

Entering the town, the party sets out to find the Inn of their contacts, the sister of Orin the Bard from Goldenfields. Titan attempts to fish for information by posing as “Greenleaf Hilldweller” and fails to convince the innkeeper of his identity, doubly so when his actual name is blurted out.

Lily Hardcheese, the proprietor, is more forthcoming when the Natalia explains they’ve been asked by Orin to come help. She explains the Inn isn’t enough to keep them and they’ve been getting into the side business of small loans to help their neighbors, but the Snail is competing (0% interest!) and driving away that source of income as well. Lily and her husband ask the party to get him to stop, while Tranled tries to convince the Hardcheeses to let him see their books so he can help make the Inn (and the loan business) more profitable. They’re dubious.

Korotir, already eager to mete out justice to The Snail for his role in Korotir’s exile, leads the way. The Snail has rooms in the Shining River tavern, but thugs outside the door refuse to let them in until the Snail is ready to see them. There’s a long discussion – making the thugs uncomfortable – about whether or not to just break down the door or not to get to the man.

Finally, about an hour after sunset, they are let inside. A tall half-elf at the bar starts to demand they leave their weapons, but stops and waves them through after one of the thugs murmurs to him. The Snail’s office is at the end of a long hallway of numbered doors, with… theatrical noises of appreciation coming from behind them. The room is barely big enough to hold the seven of them, six Snail Guards, and the Snail himself behind a sturdy desk.

The Snail is a halfling as well, and speaks with an infuriatingly slow and measured cadence (“Did he go to the William Shatner School of Elocution?”). He seems disturbingly well-informed about them and half-threatens a number of things if they don’t hear him out, including that if he dies, a “Legendary Beast” is under contract to go after them in return. Tranled starts out really animated and gets successively meeker after Snail informs him of his (new) Probationary Zhentarim status.

“Well, so long as we’ve got all our cards on the table, then —” Atarah casts Zone of Truth, blanketing the room. A number of party members who she thought ought to be able to withstand it don’t, and vice versa. The Snail himself willingly submits to the spell.

The Snail has information that will be helpful to all of them, and he offers pieces of it willingly.

Including:

The real name of the guard who framed Korotir for letting the assassins get through on the night leading to his exile. Said guard, a fellow named Bit, he’s arranged to be here, at the Shining River, this very evening. Korotir stomps out to deal with the man (who, coitus interruptus, pisses himself at the sight of the angry half-orc). Bit is tossed out a window and scarred across the brow the same way Korotir is.

The town and address which is the source of the bounty on Atarah’s family (Noanar’s Hold, 7th Days, 2 bells past midnight). She is given a sending stone and told Snail will follow up on the information and give her more leads, but if she goes, he will lose his information source. Atarah grudgingly agrees.

The location of an orc warband threatening Envar’s people; the Ardeep Elves.

The location and deed to a keep and town that is part of Natalia’s inheritance, previously kept from her.

The rest of the information, The Snail says, he will gladly give them to foster better relations between the party and the Zhentarim, should they complete a small task for him: clear a local mine of a Fire Giant and its goblinoid pests that have infested it. He will also stop competing with the Hardcheeses loan business. The Zhentarim, he explains, are primarily providers of mercenary forces. They’ve been contracted to clear the mine, and he wants the party to fulfill it. Also, it’s a gold mine. The party agrees.

Lily Hardcheese puts the party up for the night, after another attempt by Tranled (still subdued but getting back his usual enthusiasm) to get a look at their books. Titan acquires a donkey with which to carry their anticipated haul of loot back from the mine. He also secretly buries his Amulet of Asmodeus.

15th Marpenoth 1486

An urchin arrives before dawn bearing a gift from the Snail, with the tag: “To a Prosperous Relationship.” It is heavy ornate brass bottle, smoking from around the cork. Some experimentation proves it to be an Eversmoking Bottle – a magical artifact.

The party heads out to the mine site. Envar and Titan do some quick scouting, and the party plans their attack. Natalia will impersonate a dragon-in-human-form via Thaumaturgy to draw the Giant away from his Ogre and Hobgoblin attendants, and the rest of the party will attack.

This goes great until the Giant slides down further into the pits and starts flinging Ogres and Hobgoblins at the rest of the party. The Eversmoking Bottle is employed to good effect to slow down a group coming up the ramp, Atarah attempts to compel duel on the Fire Giant who somehow cannot land a blow on her (but vice versa, as he’s out of her strike range), and Envar proves who really is the best with a bow, downing creature after creature with punishing shots.

Annoyed that she can’t get a hit out of the giant, Atarah breaks the Compel and wounds a nearby Ogre, and then the Giant gets a scarily close hit on Korotir. With more of her friends taking hits, Atarah decides to parkour off an Ogre and leap at the Giant. Envar gets in three more shots, allowing Atarah to be the final straw.

When she withdraws her sword from the Giant’s eye socket a few moments later, it is glowing with divine fire. The rest of the Giant’s minions are cut down or flee, the goblins in the pit rest (having been worked to near death by the Giant) and the party heals.

Now to divvy up the loot…

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Don't Split the Party
Scenario 11

8 Marpenoth 1486

Continuing the conversation, Leonon tells Envar that, if he wanted, they could probably restore his good name if he wanted to return home. Envar doubts that, and switches to speaking in Elvish, which no one else besides Natalia can follow. Envar might have omitted some details in his retelling… seems he lost his temper and tried to kill the town favorite. Leonon suggests they wait a decade or so for it to cool off.

Atarah has left at some early point during the conversation, mentioning she needed to go check in with the other paladins at the Halls of Justice, and that she’d send word if she anything went wrong.

<…>Tranled, having been given information by one of his subcontracted urchins, tries to slip away to check out reports of a giant in the city. Korotir and Titan, being suspicious, don’t let him go alone even when he claims it’s for a privy visit. Envar confronts him on his shifty ways when they return, and Tranled confesses the information and the giant in the area. The party (minus Atarah) troops out to go see the Giant by way of the Halls of Justice in order to get their missing paladin.

The giant, however, happens to be between them and the Halls of Justice, so they meet him first. Titan decides he must be at eye-level to the giant for this confrontation and badgers Tranled for more pixie dust. Tranled declines of course – he still has one dose and further ones are going to cost. Titan, exasperated, says “Fine!” yanks out a small pouch and sprinkles it on himself. It’s… not pixie dust. It’s pepper. Titan goes back to the Inn to recover.

The giant, attracted by the screaming, asks “Are you alright? Is there something wrong with your friend?”

City guard run up behind him, yelling, “Don’t change the subject! Giants aren’t allowed in Waterdeep!”

The giant, whose name is Harshnag, is a member of Force Grey, an adventuring party known for their collateral damage (“Oh good, someone worse than us.”). The party asks if he knows about the strife among the giants – oh. He knows. He’s been hunting down his evil kin, he’s only back in Waterdeep to resupply. Waterdeep is his home. Envar persuades the guard to leave Harshnag alone.

The party says goodbye and good luck to Harshnag and go on to the Hall of Justice. Atarah is not there. She left a while ago and went north into the noble districts.

Meanwhile…

Atarah doubled back to the Cuvelier mansion after visiting with the Hall of Justice and checking in (and finding Natalia’s messenger bird, somehow). She’s been in and out of the house her whole life, Merden gave her her first sword lessons, and something feels off. Atarah is not subtle about it either.

She manages to catch Merden, the Master at Arms, alone in the stables and demands to know what’s going on. He doesn’t answer for awhile, tending to his horse, and Atarah pitches in to help.

Finally, after she threatens to use her paladin tricks on him (and he reminds her he knew her when she was in nappies), he tells her that it does seem like Lady Cuvelier has two faces, depending on who gives her the news about Natalia. Especially when it’s Kastris, Frederick and Lady Cuvelier together.

There’s also been a lot more determinedly-anonymous people coming round the estate, always minor business types with various necessary financial transactions, since the new Unmasked Lord came into power (Laeral Silverhand).

Merden asks, before she leaves, if she was seen coming in. Atarah doubts it but says she wasn’t exactly making sure she wasn’t being followed. He says she should start doing that.

Atarah leaves and decides to find an alleyway she can surprise any followers out of. This goes badly for her. She’s shot with crossbow bolts and paralyzed by poison. “The Left Hand will be happy to see you.”

When Atarah wakes, she is chained to a pole and stripped of armor and weapons. She is quite pissed and spits in her captor’s face, casts Light on her chains in order to be as obnoxiously visible as possible. He threatens her with more crossbows, aimed at her from the other side of the curtains partitioning her cell.

“You’re useful to us alive… but only as long as you talk. Tell us where your family is, and you’ll stay alive. Refuse, and we start taking fingers.”

“Go ask my Dad.” “Your father is dead.” “Hah! Right. Go ask him, assholes.”

They start taking fingers, slowly. Atarah swears and threatens and carries on until the air is blue.

Meanwhile…

The rest of the party has gone back to the Cuvelier estate; Natalia knowing her friend well and guessing at her direction. Luckily Natalia is also far more observant than Atarah and spots the paladin’s boot prints in the mud of the road and leads the party along until they also find the place where Atarah took a half-dozen crossbow bolts.

Korotir knows the scent of Aasimar blood well and can track her from the scene of the attack; the path leads the party across the city back into the seedy sections of town and a dilapidated warehouse. Atarah’s yelling and carrying on becomes very obvious.

Korotir roars and breaks down the front door, leaving Envar perfect shots to take out two of the three guards visible in the room. Korotir rushes the third and kills him, but not before taking a crossbow bolt to the gut. Natalia steps through calmly with a Guardian of Faith hovering at her side. Tranled has ducked around the side to catch any escapees, finds two by the time he gets there and burns them to a crisp.

“Stop! I have a knife to this girl’s throat and I will kill her if you come any closer,” yells the leader from behind the cloth. And there is one at her back with a knife, the other holding her sword to her eye.

“Korotir! There’s two in here, one behind me and one in front—”

“I will kill her—”

“Don’t kill the one with my sword!”

“He’s all yours, Atarah.” Korotir yanks the curtains down and shield-bashes the one behind her, flinging him across the room. Envar fires simultaneously and drops the leader to the ground, along with Atarah’s sword.

Freed from the chains, Atarah picks up her sword and kicks the leader over. Natalia said something really great here that I didn’t write down and Atarah ignores in favor of being cruel. She stabs the leader in the shoulder, pinning him to the ground and demands to know who sent them.

“The Left Hand!” “Who in the Left Hand?” “I don’t know! – It’s just business!” “Where were you supposed to take me to get your money?”

“Why should I tell you? I’m dead anyways!” Envar twists the arrowhead and Atarah leans on the sword. “Daggerford! Supposed to go to Daggerford!”

“Requiescat in pace.” And Atarah rips her sword out with a twist, laying open the man’s artery. He dies in seconds. Atarah has flashbacks to her nightmares.

The last remaining bounty hunter (Torn Black), being held prone under Korotir’s shield, is let free with a strict warning to tell his friends not to touch any of the Auraests, or they will end up the same. They find out from him the bounty hunters received a tip from around the Cuvelier estate that Atarah was nearby. He agrees and flees.

Tranled saunters in, dramatic hood flip, to mention that there might be a fire and the guard might be coming and they should all leave. Atarah is tersely grim, even after Natalia is able to reattach her finger and her gear is collected.

Voldrick catches up with them as they’re leaving the district to inform them that the Lords Alliance won’t work with dragons and that he’s still looking for mounts. He might have a lead in the form of an ex-cultist in Goldenfields with a vulture mount. The party will check in again with him later.

It’s decided to check with Naxine’s mage friend Chasleth on the way out of the city to see Atarah’s family. It’s late now, eight or nine in the evening, but Mages keep weird hours. It is known.

Chasleth, the mage, has a silver dragon friend, a young wyrmling named Izorel. They discuss options for dragons to work against the Giants. There’s an ancient dragon named Old Gnawbone who lives in the Cryptgarden Forest; he collects scrying balls and would know a lot about the current situation, could advise. But he doesn’t want treasure: he wants to not be bored. There’s lots of stories about Gnawbone, and a cult that worships him, so he probably won’t kill them outright. Probably.

Chasleth hands everyone potions of Poison Resistance just in case.

As late as it is, and given how far it is of a walk to Atarah’s home, the party goes back to the Inn for the night, to rest and collect Titan (“I regret everything!”). Tranled discovers more names on the list the Bounty Hunters had in addition to Atarah; one of them is a flower merchant in the Noble’s district.

9 Marpenoth 1486

They check on the flower seller on the way out of town. He’s definitely dead, was killed three days ago and the trail is cold. They move out of the city, north to Atarah’s family home….

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Deals with a Devil
Scenario 10

1 Marpenoth 1486

Before the company leaves Goldenfields, a letter is delivered to Korotir by the urchin messenger service. It is from Tranled, speaking of a contact in Daggerford, a member of the Zhentarim, who can give the party good information and will be useful to them. Unfortunately, as this highly-spoken-of individual is the Snail, who Korotir intends to exact revenge for engineering the situation which ended in his exile before, the letter does not endear Tranled to the party as much as he’d perhaps hoped it would. The letter also informs the party about the Left Hand and their intentions. “My [Tranled’s] fate and Atarah’s are entwined.” Atarah is baffled.

There is ten days of travel to Waterdeep, during which nothing noteworthy occurs. Natalia is distracted by concern for her mother. Titan starts out loudly singing the praises of places he knows in Waterdeep (during which time Envar finds excuses to be as far away as possible; scouting and hunting), but gets quieter and quieter the closer they get. At some point, Natalia has told Atarah about the other letters from Lady Cuvelier and their distinct personality shifts.

7 Marpenoth 1486

It is late afternoon when the party finally arrives at the southern gates of Waterdeep. As they approach, guards are signaling to each other and the portcullis closes, locking the party outside. Tense discussion ensues, and the Guard Captain tells the party they have orders to not let the party inside as they are “troublemakers” and there’s been too many suspicious deaths of city leaders while the party is around. Guards are not swayed by the argument that uh, the party lives here? Still not allowed in; at least until the Giant Crisis is resolved. Natalia sends off her messenger bird to the Lords’ Alliance to straighten things out, but it is shot down.

While they are arguing, an urchin on a card-bedecked tricycle arrives and hands Atarah a note. It’s from Tranled. He says if the party wants to get into Waterdeep, follow Jason (this being the name of the kid). Tranled has made arrangements to smuggle them inside via cargo ship. The party is suspicious but need to get inside and so go along with the plan – Titan is incensed that he, also, came up with this brilliant plan, first.

Jason leads them to his treehouse (which is quite epic, with bridges and multiple ‘stories’). From here on, they must be much stealthier, and are forced to leave Rivka, Atarah’s mount, and the cart behind at the treehouse. The party improvises a stretcher for the petrified Voldrick and together troop down to the water’s edge. There’s a longboat there, crewed by a short, surly bald man. The party loads in, with Korotir, Envar, and Atarah on high alert around Natalia. Titan immediately notices the bald man has a poisoned dagger in his boot, and starts asking where, hypothetically, one would acquire… herbal remedies.

The bald man is unhelpful (“The bottom of the ocean.”) and in retaliation, Titan dives for the dagger, holds it aloft and announces its status to the group. A fight nearly breaks out while the girls faceapalm and try to calm things down. Eventually everyone relents and the longboat begins its trip out into the bay.

The longboat draws close to a large cargo ship and is drawn aboard. Envar is recognized by one of the crewmembers – an elf from his home named Leonan. They have a brief discussion in elvish but break it off to continue later, as the ship must go and the party must be hidden before they leave.

The party is shown down to the holds and a small space behind a false bulkhead wall. Voldrick the statue is stashed nearby with sailcloth over him as disguise. Titan blusters and won’t go into the space, decides he needs to be outside in order to keep watch and finds a place in the beams. Korotir rifles through nearby crates to try and help find a hiding place for Titan, finds bottles of port instead and takes a few. When the sailors come down to nail them into the hiding spot, Titan bribes him into finding another spot for him to hide. As the final boards are nailed down, the light vanishes and Atarah quietly freaks out, casting light on her rock and holding it tight in her fist.

It is twilight when the ship arrives in port and the party is freed. The sailors warn them; “Stay on the East side of the city if you want to avoid the guards.”

There is a cloaked figure standing at the bottom of the gangplank speaking to the captain. Notes and small sacks are exchanged. The figure dramatically throws his hood back. It’s Tranled.

<…>There’s lots of tense, accusatory ‘discussion’ about how trustworthy Tranled really is, which is finally ended when the question is asked of Tranled, “Isn’t the Left Hand part of the Zhentarim?”

Tranled seethes, the only real emotion the party has ever seen him display, and snarls, “The Left Hand killed my family.” Discussion ends there.

The first order of business in the city is to get Voldrick de-petrified. Titan and Tranled happen to know a guy… a cleric named Saul. Saul lives in the seedy part of town and he’s not terribly pleased to see any of them. But he is able to restore Voldrick… for 500 gold. Tranled offers a wizard’s tome in trade, and the rest of the party chips in the remainder. Saul does the ritual and Voldrick is restored.

He is confused by his surroundings and asks if the rest of his companions are there. He has to get back to Mithril Hall; he has information that the Lord of the Fire Giants is planning to raid the city, break into the Great Forge and steal the fire elemental Majeira which powers it. If the fire elemental is stolen, it could wreak havoc and the drow would invade Mithril Hall again. Would the party go with him?

<…>The party escorts him to the Lords’ Alliance headquarters and agrees to go with him to Mithril Hall, but they have business to take care of in Waterdeep (and… maybe Daggerford first). Voldrick at least arranges to take the ban off them, so they no longer have to hide going about the city. The party will meet with Voldrik again tomorrow.

Rooms are acquired for the night nearby.

8 Marpenoth 1486

They go to check on Lady Cuvelier first thing in the morning; Envar and Titan go ahead to scout and see if anything looks off. Nothing does; normal Noble household. Titan, on investigating rooftop hiding spaces, discovers the perfect place to jump off and performs a Leap of Faith. He is now doubly committed to finding a way to fly. More pixie dust!

They head inside, everyone but Tranled and Envar, who, not being part of the original contracted group, wait somewhere nearby. Tranled tries to convince Envar to play Gwent with him. The household butler and secretary meet them, and the Master at Arms, Merden, asks they divest of weapons. Atarah bluffs that as a Paladin, she’s required to keep her weapons at all times, but will peace-tie her sword. Korotir claims to be a paladin also but has to give up all his weapons. He can keep the shield.

Lady Crystal is planning another Ball, and thus is very busy. The party is kept waiting in the parlor for twenty minutes, but finally escorted upstairs. There is a bit of a kerfluffle when the Lady refuses to acknowledge Natalia’s questions about the letters and Korotir and Atarah stand to block her exit. Natalia and her mother get a private conversation eventually, but she refuses to even look at the letters and gives a lot of vague answers.

Outside, the secretary is upset with the party for upsetting the Lady, and tells off Atarah and Natalia. “You should have known better.” “…you had plenty of time. You knew we were coming.”

The party reunites and starts heading towards the mage tower. On the way, Envar and Tranled are offered the opportunity to be contracted as Titan and Korotir are, to guard Natalia. Tranled prefers to be a free agent. <…> They run into Envar’s friend again on the way, and head back to the Inn/Tavern where their rooms are to get drinks with the elf, Leonon.

Over drinks, the party learns a bit of Envar’s story. He was out on patrol with the town favorite, who started an unnecessary fight with gnolls which got their team (except for Envar and the favorite) killed. On reporting, the favorite blamed Envar for starting the conflict and he was exiled. Leonon sympathizes. He’s been sailing up and down the coast on his ship (which Envar is welcome to join them, it’s the “Maiden’s Wings”). There’s been many reports of Frost Giants in giant ships further north. There’s a short explanation of the Ordening, summarized: “Gods are always messing things up.”

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Dawn of the Dead
Two Enter, One Leaves

Battle had anointed the hulking half orc in a swathe of claret red gore. A savage visage growling, with equally savage words.

“You need not die, only kneel.”

The incensed humans’ face convulsed into a mural of disgruntled barking and howling, his words as waves against the cliff , finding only the deaf ears of a gnarled grey mass, the half-orc that stood, staunchly opposed to him.

The spittle and froth, spilling from captains mouth conveyed what his word’s could not.
The gaunt grey Half-Orc understood him perfectly.

He had chosen,
he had chosen death.

The dull grey eyes of the half-orc offered no insight to his fractured state, his muscles knotted, the laboured breathing of his chest, his senses deafened and drowned out by the constant, thunderous pounding of blood through his veins. An unyielding heart, the rhythm, the pulse, the hammer, the anvil.


The flail bristles, willing puppet to it’s master, woken with life, it announces it’s hunger with the rattle of the chain, a sinister flourish that signals a cacophony of violence.

Both fighters, drained and fatigued, ogre clubs, giant kin, spears, arrows, blade broken bone, pilfered lung, all roads have led here.

Atop this wall, under the judgement of the dawn.

A duel. Strog, Captain of Goldenfield, empowered by pride, fervour and hate, brings scimitar against Korotir, Half-Orc of the Ulgen tribe, the exile of Goldenfield, who hauls flail and shield and the great weight, of righteous grudge.

The humanoid forms clash in a relentless melee, impacting and smashing into one another. Silhouetted armoured shapes, veritable walls of steel and flesh atop the city wall. Heavy and sudden they lunge at one another, both as fast, both as vicious. Mauling beasts tearing blood and flesh from one another. Paying one another wounding favours.

In the steel maelstrom Korotir’s shield sends Strog toppling but there is no ground to be taken, no forward line. There is only here. Blood and stone for a bed as he hits the floor.


The air stinks with blood
And to inhale is to taste, to drink of death,
so thick is the crimson fog that paints the two, marking them as members of a fatalistic cabal.

Strog knows this as well as the half-orc and demands his body obey. He cannot fault, muscles burn and wane as instincts flay them with the desire to survive. No sooner does he hit the floor is he back to his feet his scimitar flying, baying to drink of the muddled blood of the creature he so despises.

The whirling, desperate strike finds purchase, the blade cutting and gorging into the chain-mail of his enemy, digging deep and ripping inward. The wound wrenches forth an agonized grunt from the red soaked half-orc.

The half-orc who is deafened again, entombed with the sole company of his flagging heart, it’s hollow drumming, harbinger of the coming end. Time dwindles, begins its entropic crawl. The taste of crisp air betrays him, the memories of the great blue maw, the endless skies of the north. The quiet the tranquility.


But that place is far away and this is here.

Atop this wall under the judgement of the dawn.

Dreams of tranquility are shattered and sundered with a heavy crack, a guttural chortle. The flail sways almost as if it muses, a smiling face rendered black and red, chunks of steel and flesh smeared across it’s lips.

Strogs stomach lies open, the waterfall of blood and bile painted by the rising Sun.

If violence can take,deplete and drown a man it is dominance that fills the form, a goblet running over, a font of rage and refusal.

Korotir fuelled by the eternal fires of conquest sends his flail and shield rattling to the floor, lumbering swaying, adrenaline and agony coalesce to propel him forward like broken marionette.

There remains a grudge to be buried.

Tight is the hand that wraps around Strog’s throat. Taut is the arm that raises him into the air. Hot is the sun that gives it’s gaze and victorious is the warrior that discards the broken body of his foe,
to be fallen,
forgotten.


On the precipice of death there is a clarity.

Atarah, battle sister,young, righteous and honourable. In arms against all odds no other more fitting in the shield wall.

Titan, equal parts wretched and wild, vicious and swift of wit, an honesty of violence that you can take to the grave.

Envar, stoic, efficient, ruthlessly dependable. A true soldier, a guardian.

Natalia, bloodied and broken herself, yet still a serene , a guiding light, to be followed unto the dark .

Family.

We are adventures and this is what we do.

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Duel of the Fates
Scenario 9

25 Eleint 1486
Dawn

Titan ducks and weaves through the streets of Goldenfields, but the Captain and his men know this town, and catch up with Titan in an alleyway. They think they have him cornered. “You broke into my jail, halfling, you’re going down too!”

“No lunk like you can capture the great Titan!” Titan parkoured onto the rooftops, yelling, “Eat my dust, Strog! …Ihatethistown!” Strog and the guards follow from below, and now they have dogs. Titan decides the best thing to do is sprinkle himself with Pixie Dust. Aaand… he flies away. But not before gifting the guards with some dust of their own; ground spicy peppers. Titan is the spice fairy.

Titan scouts the city, spotting more Large Humanoid Shapes in the south of town. He also finds the party by virtue of the fact that Natalia’s spiritual guardians are still there and very glowy. “Hello friends, it is I! I have gained in power and can now fly!”

There are looks exchanged. Korotir wonders how hard he got hit. Titan does eventually tell them about the other Large Humanoid figures south, and leads the party to them (still flying, very smug).

It’s two Hill Giants, who have somehow gotten inside the walls and are fighting a small guard force, ripping out chunks of the wall and flinging them. One guard runs past the party (“Run for your lives!”) but Korotir grabs him by the scruff and shakes some courage into him. Envar maintains range and starts firing arrows, Titan flits behind the giants and starts flinging axes, and Korotir and Atarah advance together to attack the right-hand giant. Natalia stays back near Envar. Atarah gets annoyed at the fact the rapier she borrowed is too light and can’t hit for anything; switches to the heavier scimitar and starts actually connecting. Natalia calls down sacred flame. The RH Giant, very injured, turns to run but is cut down by Envar’s arrows.

The LH giant swats at Atarah, but Titan gets a rope wrapped around his knees Hoth ATAT style; the LH Giant falls. Titan gloats but is over shadowed by Captain Strog and his men, who have arrived just in time to take credit, alerted by the double-toned watchtower bells. The party (and Strog) take advantage of the downed state of the Giant to finish him off. The giant rolls over, nearly squashing Natalia and Strog, but as Natalia’s guardians close in, the Giant begins sobbing and surrenders.

Everyone backs off. Korotir declares the giant his prisoner after checking on Natalia and ties his hands. Atarah heals Natalia, and Titan badgers Strog into admitting that it was actually Titan who tripped the Giant. Korotir wrenches Strog’s long sword out of the giant and hands it to Atarah (“Don’t give that back to him.” “No way, man.”) who trades for the scimitar.

There’s things being flung at the walls from outside; Envar goes to check it out while the rest of the group interrogate their new prisoner. The giant’s name is Ogh, and he was sent by Queen Guh to get her all the food, so she will be bigger than all the other giants.

Envar returns with reports of an army outside the walls, just outside of bow range: Many other giants, ogres with trebuchets, bugbears, and so many goblins. The party tells Ogh to go tell the others to piss off; Atarah holds his ‘leash’ while Titan translates. Titan gets hit by a spike-armored goblin thrown by an ogre goblin-hucker – some of those ogres have perfect aim. But eventually, between Natalia, Titan, and Ogh, they convince the army to leave.

Strog starts arguing with Korotir over… everything… to the point of Challenge. “Come on. Let’s settle this now, you and me.” “Bring it.” (Paraphrased).

Dawn breaks.

The duel is set for the top of the city wall. No interference from anyone, no potions, no magic, just weapons (Strog has the scimitar; Atarah still has his longsword. Korotir has his flail and shield). Envar climbs to a good spot to shoot if necessary. Both Korotir and Strog are still very beat up from all the fighting that night.

They act simultaneously – both charging at each other. Strog gets in a good hit but so does Korotir, and Korotir forces the Captain down. The Captain struggles up and Korotir lets him. Strog gets in a last blow, the scimitar slashing and getting stuck in Korotir’s side. Korotir drops his flail and shield and grabs Strog by the collar, hoisting him up over the edge of the wall, facing the forest. He rips the Captain’s insignia from his uniform and throws him into the mist beyond. “I’m the Captain, now.”

There is silence as Korotir descends the wall. “I’m your Captain now!”

“Ah, he was an asshole anyways,” says one of the guards. Xellin, the lieutenant. Korotir remembers him as being “a good guy” from his time in Goldenfields. “He was supposed to start preparing the city against further Giant attacks and never did, and look what happened.”

Huzzah for Captain Korotir! Envar hands him a potion, which he just holds as he gives out new orders. Ogh gives Korotir his loot bag after Korotir arranges food for him. They were supposed to be gifts for Queen Guh (who is mean, lives in the forest, and Ogh can’t find where; that’s what the bugbears were for). Atarah gives him Strog’s Thunderblade (“Pretty sure this should be yours now, too.”)

Titan finally has a giant friend to protect him, and vice versa. Envar pesters Korotir into drinking the healing potion. The other giant (“Aw, Lob. Lob was Ogh’s friend.”) had a loot bag, which is investigated. It contains a petrified dwarf from Mithril Hall, Voldrick Firehammer. He’s well-known.

Titan flies off to go retrieve his loot from the wheatfield, but the Pixie Dust wears off and he goes plummeting to the ground. Envar stabilizes him and everyone regroups at the Nightfurrows Inn for healing and rest.

26 Eleint 1486

Errands!

Natalia sends her Raven messenger to the Lords’ Alliance in Waterdeep, requesting the aid of a magic-user who can reverse the petrification on Voldrick.

The party goes and gets their loot appraised and sold for coin, which is divided. Titan goes back later by himself, tells a really bad lie about how he got this gold thing from his dead fallen aunt, baffles the appraiser, who tells him it is a holy symbol of Asmodeus. “So… you’re saying… A paladin would be obligated to be mean to a person with this symbol?” “Well, yes, but — really you ought to get that melted down! It’s going to complicate your life!”

Natalia receives a message from her mother, forwarded from Nightstone. The tone is decidedly different from the last message she received from her mother. Lady Cuvellier tells Natalia she’s sorry about Velrosa but to remember it wasn’t Natalia’s fault. Natalia is suspicious.

The party decides to stay until HighHarvestTide, five days away. Over the course of the week, various villagers approach them about things they could do or places they could go.

Miros gives them a map of the area and tells them about a friend of his up in Womford, who runs the Staghorned Flagon , says he’s a former adventurer and may have leftover gear the party would find interesting.

Naxine declares that these Giant attacks are only the beginning. She’s been doing research and based on that, thinks that dragons should be recruited to help put the Giants back in order. Giants and Dragons are ancient enemies. She gives Natalia a stone for message-sending, says she has a friend in Waterdeep (Chasleth, a mage, Natalia & Atarah are familiar with his Tower if not him) who is an expert on dragons.

Over that conversation, Envar and Titan bicker about height, and Titan is very offended when called short.

Lifferlas says the elven druid who awakened him several hundred years ago, Airglas, has fought Giants before and might know something to help. She was headed to the Shadowtop Cathedral, but that was decades ago. Regardless, there’s an Ent there named Tirlang who would know where Airglas is.

Orin approaches Titan separately and promises to write a rousing heroic ballad of Titan if the rogue will visit his sister’s family in Daggerford and help them with the loanshark problems they’ve been having. A fellow called Snail (Korotir is interested).

Atarah retrieves her repaired sword from the blacksmith. There was rejoicing.

Natalia receives another letter from her mother, this one in the same nasty sort of tone as the first, which tells her to stay out of Waterdeep, because everywhere she goes the town’s leaders die. (True, but very unfair.) She does not share with the party.

It is decided to go to Waterdeep to find someone to de-petrify Voldrick, check in with Chasleth, and go get their promised pay from Natalia’s mother (and also, not incidentally, check on her because those letters are worrying). During the discussions on how best to transport the stone dwarf (not Ogh, because Waterdeep is too likely to shoot first and ask questions later), Atarah remembers something from her communion with her deity over the last few days that could help. She goes outside and spends ten minutes to summon a celestial spirit to aid her as a mount. It appears as a sabertoothed tiger as large as a warhorse, and Atarah was not expecting that.

Time for the HighHarvestTide Festival.

(Note: Tranled is yet unaccounted for by the end of the scenario but work with the GM/Josiah on what happened in that time)

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Letters home

25 Eleint 1486
Lady Natalia Cuvelier to Lady Crystal Cuvelier, with warmest regards;

Your recent letter requiring me to stay in Nightstone was received and I have acted accordingly. I understand well your position, although I must protest that the Lady in question was beyond even my ability to heal well before I approached her. Nevertheless, I have taken control of Nightstone and begun securing it. As you are no doubt aware, this will be an expensive business. Guards will need to be paid and there is much to be repaired. Giants cause a great deal of structural damage. If you could see your way to sending funds or builders to aid the effort I am sure Nightstone would continue to be in debt to house Cuvelier.

The travelling party you sent me with has grown, and when asked by some locals in Nightstone to carry word to Goldenfields of all that happened (as some recently deceased villagers had family there) I agreed. I hope to continue good communications between Nightstone and Goldenfields. Of note is a small altercation with the Lords’ Alliance. I have handled it, but should they approach you I did feel it worth mentioning. It seems they were investigating an issue I was looking into at the same time (the giant attacks, I assume you have heard? It is more widespread than Nightstone alone!) and our paths crossed. We spoke along the way to a cloud giant uninvolved in the current troubles hoping for information and the Lords’ Alliance chose to send agents at that moment, rather disruptively. I believe the misunderstanding to be under control, but do of course feel free to send them back toward me if they question you.

On the matter of Goldenfields: there was an attack while I was here, which I am looking into. Of course, the guards you have sent with me have kept me safe. However, the danger they are putting themselves in now is much greater than their original job might suggest. Although you hired them to escort me to Nightstone, I believe the original agreement was they would be paid part of this on return? Having quite recently had them drag me from the grip of bugbear and keep me from being crushed by ogres I feel they are working above and beyond what is asked of them, and ask that they be paid as such.

I hope all is well in Waterdeep. You would tell me if it was not, wouldn’t you? I am sad to miss the harvest festival, but with your approval I hope to be home before the year end.

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